Tuesday 2 October 2012

ASA & road tax. fuck off, again

A complaint

Advert, "Lexus CT" Guardian, Sept 15 2012 p11
The Second Bullet Point in this car advertisment was " no road tax"
This statement is misleading as it is referring to Vehicle Excise Duty.
The conflation of "car tax" and the right to use a road creates needless conflict between cyclists and drivers -as the latter believe that people on a bicycle have no right to be there.
As an example, consider this video of a couple abusing someone for being in their way, arguing that they shouldn't be there as they don't pay road tax:

Before replying with the stock "it's the vernacular form", consider the following facts
1. Peugeot and Nissan have switched to using the phrase "car tax". They clearly recognise that their customers will understand the concept. Given that Lexus is targeting the high-end of the market, their customer base should also be able to comprehend this.

2. The failure of the ASA to even pass these complaints on the car manufacturers is becoming a story in its own right: http://ipayroadtax.com/no-such-thing-as-road-tax/peugeot-scraps-advert-references-to-road-tax-fiat-refuses-to/

This shows that there is no reason for the manufacturers to not use "Car Tax" in their advertisments, and that your organisation is failing in its duty -something that is becoming more obvious over time.
The reply
Thank you for your recent complaint about a press ad by Toyota (GB) Plc for the Lexus CT. I understand you object to the use of the term “Road Tax”.
We have assessed the ad and your complaint but consider that there are insufficient grounds for ASA intervention on this occasion. Whilst we acknowledge that the correct term is indeed “Vehicle Excise Duty”, more commonly used phrases such as “Road Tax” are often used by advertisers to convey a message in a way that will be understood by the widest audience. The requirements of the CAP Code are such that the ASA draws a distinction between technical inaccuracies and claims which are likely to mislead consumers to their detriment. In this case we consider it unlikely that the use of a common term for this type of tax will mislead consumers to their detriment by influencing their transactional decisions in relation to the advertiser’s products and we will therefore not be taking further action on this occasion. Please note that the ASA does not pass the details of complaints to advertisers if we consider that no action is required. You would need to contact them directly with your concerns.

I realise that this outcome may disappoint you, but thank you for taking the time to contact us with your views.

Which means : fuck off and we won't even bother telling the car company.


  1. MOtor manufacturers are the largest ad spenders in the world. Together with components, nsurers, oil companies etc they probably account for more than half of all advertising spend.

    Without it, most newspapers etc would go bust, so ASA isn't going to be the turkey that votes for Christmas.

    That we shold come to this!

  2. To be blunt, I don't think they said "fuck off" at all. They said (accurately) that your complaint doesn't come under their (limited) brief and recognised politely that you wouldn't be happy. What else could they do? They have more than enough work sorting out liars and cheats.

    Valid cultural critque is best (and more effectively) done mobilising lots of people through social media to send well-reasoned direct complaints to the miscreant companies. This gives them (not over-worked public servants) the hassle to deal with, and can yield results.

  3. It looks to me less like a 'fuck off' and more like they haven't read any of the detail in your complaint, sticking it 'road tax' pile and sending you the stock response. I should start sending these in too and publishing the responses.

  4. samsaundersbristol so basically your are saying ASA won't do diddly and it's up to the general public to hold advertisers to account themselves.

    What a strange notion. Would it not be better to have an official body who's job it is to make sure advertisers play by the rules and tell the truth and who had some power to wield over the advertisers? Then the general public could complain to them about such things and the advertisers would have to listen.

    we can but dream