Motorist tackles car giant – and wins

By KAMCILLA PILLAY Time of article published May 6, 2014

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Durban -

A motorist has taken on a car manufacturing giant for falsely advertising its fuel efficiency – and won.

Jeremy Hawkins Wright lodged the complaint against General Motors South Africa with the Advertising Standards Authority on April 25 after buying a Chevrolet Captiva 2.4 LT Auto a few months earlier and observing its fuel consumption over various distances.

He said the manufacturers had misled him into buying the car by saying in its brochure the motorist could expect to get 100km of driving from 9.1 litres of petrol.

Wright’s recordings, however, showed that, on average, he needed 14.53 litres to drive 100km.

GM said during the proceedings that it had complied with legislation and had included figures that were achieved during testing.

“The testing was done for the purpose of comparison between the different vehicle models available in the South African market, which are all tested in the same manner.

“The fuel consumption estimates should only be used for vehicle comparison purposes and are not intended to be a representation of the actual fuel consumption results the customer would experience when operating the vehicle.”

This complaint had not called this testing process into question, but the manner in which the results were relayed to prospective buyers.

“Advertisers are not permitted to mislead consumers by means of ambiguity, exaggeration or omission. The complaint appears to suggest that the advertising at issue omits material information, being that the claimed figures are neither representative of, nor achieved in real driving conditions, and can therefore not be used as an indication of the fuel consumption one can reasonably expect.”

GM added that consumption figures claimed must make it clear whether they were achieved in “the real world”.

The authority found the disclaimer – which said fuel consumption relied on environmental factors and driving style – had been presented in a “minute font” and “substantially removed” from the content.

“While the directorate accepts that this paragraph would inform customers of the fact that the quoted fuel consumption figures are provided solely for the purposes of comparison between different vehicle models and cannot be fully representative of real-life driving conditions, it is a case of ‘too little too late’.”

The authority ordered the company to withdraw fuel consumption estimates from the brochure and refrain from making unqualified consumption claims.

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