ASA Adjudication on RIAS plc
15 August 2012
Number of complaints:
The Black Hole Creative Company Ltd
A TV ad for RIAS car insurance began with a voice-over which stated "Are you paying over £195 for car insurance? Here's why you should talk to RIAS." Accompanying on-screen text stated "Why pay more than £195? Over 50s car insurance". A series of people were shown saying, "These days I consider myself an experienced driver, and I want a fair price for insurance." "So I choose RIAS, they offer great value cover for the over 50s." "We get up to 9 years no claims discount, so it saves us money every year." "And we're even covered for 90 days driving in the EU." "You even get a Parker pen just for getting a quote."
The voice-over continued, "So why pay more than £195 for your car insurance? Call RIAS free on 0800 XXX XXXX or visit rias.co.uk today." On-screen text stated "Source: 20.4% of new customers who took out car insurance between Oct & Dec 11 paid less than £195. ... Terms, conditions & cover limits apply. UK only advisors. Survey: Auto Express 2011".
Two complainants challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that all of the advertiser's quotes would be £195 or less when, in their experience, that was not the case.
RIAS plc (RIAS) said the ad highlighted that if people were paying more than £195 for their car insurance they should talk to RIAS. They said the ad was scheduled to target people over 50 years of age, and was clearly aimed at over-50s who were experienced drivers; the people in the ad were a representative sample of over 50s and the cars they might drive. RIAS confirmed that although some of the people in the ad referred to being experienced drivers and having nine years of no-claims discount, there were no eligibility criteria for achieving the price point of £195. They said their pricing was based on risk factors in line with standard insurance practice.
RIAS said the on-screen text in the ad, which appeared throughout, made clear that 20.4% of their new customers who took out insurance between October and December 2011 paid less than £195 for their insurance, but there was no implication in the ad that all quotes would be for less than £195. They provided data in support of the claim, and emphasised that it related to actual sales of their insurance rather than on quotations, indicative premiums or modelled data. They believed the proportion of customers who could achieve a quote of less than £195 was clearly highlighted throughout the ad and it was not a contradictory or misleading message in context with the voice-over and other on-screen text. They said they not received any other complaints about the ad.
Clearcast said the ad made clear that around 20% of RIAS' customers had paid less than £195 for their insurance, and it was an invitation to viewers to find out whether they could also get their car insurance for less than £195. They emphasised that all insurance quotes were based on many variables including, for example, driving history, type of car, geographical location, and the local crime rate, but the evidence from RIAS showed that some over 50s would be able to pay less than £195. They provided copies of correspondence in which RIAS confirmed they held evidence which substantiated the claim. Clearcast said they had also asked RIAS to confirm their pricing complied with the requirements of Financial Services Authority guidelines on insurance pricing in advertising, and RIAS had provided that confirmation. Clearcast considered the ad was not misleading.
The ASA understood that the references to customers paying less than £195 were based on data which showed that 20.4% of RIAS customers who took out car insurance between October and December 2011 had paid less than £195; we noted that information was clearly displayed during the ad. We agreed that the statement "Are you paying over £195 for car insurance? Here's why you should talk to RIAS" implied only that those viewers who were currently paying over £195 for their car insurance should talk to RIAS because they might be charged less with RIAS. However, we considered the statement "Why pay more than £195?", which appeared as on-screen text at the beginning of the ad, and which was stated by the voice-over at the end of the ad, went further, because it implied that customers would not pay more than £195 if they purchased their car insurance from RIAS. We considered that, particularly because that statement was made both at the beginning and end of the ad, it reinforced the message that RIAS's customers would not pay more than £195 for their car insurance; in that context we considered the on-screen text which stated the basis of the claim therefore contradicted rather than clarified the "Why pay more than £195?" claim. We concluded the ad was misleading.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation), 3.10 (Qualification) and 3.18 (Prices).
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form.