The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against Plates for Cars after one of its customers claimed its advertising was misleadling.

On its website the company offers customisable car number plates, and states “Our Online Designer makes it possible to see the exact number plate and size before ordering”.  The “Design Online” page had fields for consumers to enter their requirements and a preview feature which displayed an image of the product that had been designed.

However, the complainant said that when he received his plates they did not feature any legal details, although this option had been selected and was displayed on the product preview.

In its response Plates for Cars explained it could only legally add legal details to number plates that had been designed to be road legal. It said the options selected by the complainant did not comply with that requirement, because they featured a Mercedes badge and a space was not present in the middle of the registration number.

“It said the legal requirements were stated elsewhere on its website, but acknowledged that the designer function allowed the legal details option to be selected, previewed, and ordered by consumers, even when Plates for Cars would be unable to provide plates which featured those details.

It added that no other customers had complained about the issue and it did not therefore feel its website needed to be changed.

In its judgment, the ASA acknowledged that an explanation of how to design plates that would be road legal was provided in another section of the website, but said it was concerned that the design function page nonetheless allowed customers to add legal details to non-legal plate designs, without highlighting that the design would not be legal and therefore could not be supplied in that form.

It understood that a non-legal plate designed by a customer would be adapted by Plates for Cars before it was sent to the customer to ensure that it was road legal. It noted the design page did not make clear that Plates for Cars would be unable to add legal details to a non-legal plate design and for that reason the plate preview image a customer saw would not necessarily be the same as the number plate they would receive.  

It therefore concluded that, because the design page allowed customers to create and order a product that Plates for Cars was unable to supply, the page was misleading and breached the Code.   

ASA said the advert must not appear again in its current form, and it told Plates for Cars to ensure that customers were only able to create products that Plates for Cars was able to provide in future.