Used car-buying company WeBuyAnyCar has got itself into trouble after sending out an email that was deemed exaggerated and ‘misleading’.
The offending email highlighted the fact cars lose their value once the new registration kicked in. It said: ‘Beat the price drop! The car market is entering a busy period which means now could be a good time to sell… Remember: The value of your car could be a lot less in 3 months time.’
Accompanying the email was a graph that showed cars would depreciate in value sharply over a three-month period, but neglected to display any actual figures. An asteriks linked to smallprint that said: ‘Pictures for illustration purposes only’.
Three recipients of the email complained and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) was called in to investigate. It agreed the graph was misleading, citing the fact the small size of the text at the bottom of a long email would be missed by most readers.
In a report by This Is Money, the ASA said: “By presenting the information in the way that they did, we consider that WeBuyAnyCar created the impression the line represented a relationship between variables and would be regarded by consumers as indicating that car values depreciated at a rapid and accelerating rate.
“We understood that the central aim of the ad was to communicate that, with the release of new number plates in several weeks’ time, as well as other factors, recipients’ vehicles were likely to decrease in value in the near future.
“We did not consider this to be sufficient evidence that, on average, all cars would depreciate rapidly, moving from a “high” to “low” value over a three-month period and at an accelerating rate, the general trend suggested by the curve of the line in the graphic.
“We considered that to present a curve that suggested such a trend in the context of claims about the effects of various factors, some of them short term, was likely to mislead readers.”
The advertising watchdog has since ruled WeBuyAnyCar cannot use the advert again.
WeBuyAnyCar defended the email, saying it wasn’t actually graph – because of the lack of numbers and monetary values – and said it thought it helped customers understand the message more easily.
The company, which was launched in 2006, lets buyers type in their registration and get a free valuation of their car.
It is said to have bought more than 750,000 cars and its turnover reached £557 million in 2014, even though a probe by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in 2011 found 96 per cent of customers who sold their car got less than the original online valuation.