Friday, 5 August 2011

We complained: will you?

Our last complaint to the ASA was dismissed, though if you search for ASA and road tax, the organisations habit of dismissing such complaints is starting to make the organisation itself look as independent as News International's internal hacking investigations.

We were shown another advertisement, this time in Sport Magazine; a Fiat advert, "Avoid Road Tax without being arrested". Another complaint. This time, we'd like everyone else to complain too. We know that single complaints do get ignored. What is unknown is how many people does it take to complain before the ASA recognise that this is a problem that won't go away, pass the news up to the advertisers, and have them change their prose.

Here is the text of the complaint

The article says "Avoid Road Tax without being arrested". As road tax was abolished in the 1930s, it is clearly confusing Vehicle Excise Duty -a car tax- with some hypothetical and hypothecated fee that gives motor vehicles the right to use roads, and which does not confer rights onto any other users, such as cyclists. 
Furthermore, if it did mistakenly refer to VED, that's not an arrestable offence.
This article is repeating in its headline a myth: that paying for VED gives motor vehicle owners exclusive rights to the road.
You will no doubt reply with some dismissive stock "we don't expect the readers to be that stupid" reply, but be aware of two details
  1. Some of the readers are that stupid, and are now appearing on video assaulting cyclists for being on the road without paying road tax.
  2. Every time the ASA dismisses these complaints, it makes the ASA look weaker -it makes you look as effective as a voluntary regulatory body as the press complains commission. 
Please recognise that road tax does not exist, that such advertisements repeat myths that do have dangerous consequences in this country, and that your inability or unwillingness to address this issue is detrimental to your own organisation.

Remember -if you don't complain, things won't change.


  1. I think your on a loser there - even the government refers to the "tax disk" which is clearly what is being talked about in the ad.

  2. @scouselander: we're happy for it to be " a car tax", " a bus tax", etc, to make it clear what it is. It's not a road tax though, so nobody can say "I've paid road tax, you haven't, get off the road", which is the situation we have today. They can say "I've paid my car tax, you haven't, so you can't drive a car".

  3. Our new treasurer at the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain lives in West Sussex and has written to his MP who is Nicholas Soames, Conservative representative for Mid Sussex and Grandson of Winston Churchill who, as you know, abolished 'Road Tax' (or the Road Fund Licence) in 1937.

    Our Treasurer wrote to Mr Soames following the post on my personal blog ( apparently Mr Soames has written back informing him that he has requested an explanation from the ASA as to why the term is still being used. We shall keep you updated if/when we find out anything more.

    Solidarity Brothers and Sisters

    Jim Davis

  4. The thing is there is no tax payable for just owning a motor vehicle - you only pay a tax if you want to put that vehicle on the road. It is a road tax in reality if not by name.

    I dont see that it matters though there are so many other arguments that can be used. As a cyclist myself I also have a car which I tax. I also pay council tax which funds the local roads I ride on. I'm sure most of us are in the same position. Even if VED applied to cyclists it would be at the zero rate anyway.

    There's no getting away from the fact motorists contribute over £45 Bn per year to the government's coffers - it seems reasonable that people expect some return from this contribution although some peoples expectations are a little misguided. Perhaps it would be better to try and get the government to invest some of this £45 bn in better road infrastructure that provides ways of keeping cyclists and motorists separate.

  5. -not disagreeing, but it's a "use tax". As churchill noted, we pay a lot of beer tax but never see better pubs in exchange.

    One funny w/ road spending is that capital investments "infrastructure" is ok, as are the operation expenses in roads (lights, policing, repairs), but money put into keeping train costs down is "subsidy". If there is one thing the N fringe has failed on (apart from UWE) is public transport. You can't even get to Abbeywood station from the Bristol suburban railways (bedminster station, the severn beach line) that easily