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Enforcement on Advertising

Introduction

If your business is involved in the supply of new cars in the UK, you must provide certain information under the Passenger Car (Fuel Consumption and CO2 Emissions Information) Regulations 2001, and the amendment Regulations 2004 and 2013. This information must be provided to consumers at the point of sale and in any model-specific promotional material. A 'point of sale' (POS) is defined as a location where new cars are displayed or offered for sale or lease. This includes car showrooms, forecourts or trade fairs where new cars are presented to the public.

The Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) is the nominated UK enforcement body in relation to the provision of fuel consumption and CO2 information in promotional literature. Trading Standards enforce requirements at the point of sale.

Rules on using fuel consumption figures in promotional material

The 2001 and amending 2004 and 2013 Regulations on providing fuel consumption and emissions figures define promotional literature as 'all printed matter used in the marketing, advertising and promotion of a new passenger car'.

This includes things like advertisements and guidebooks, as well as material that is largely graphical with limited textual content (such as billboard posters).

If you use such material when advertising, selling or leasing a new car, you must include the information on the car's fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions taken from official fuel consumption and emissions tests (this includes Electric Vehicles (EVs) and Plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEVs)) . If you produce this kind of material on behalf of someone supplying new cars, you need to understand the legislation to ensure that you do not expose your client to potential enforcement activity.

Websites, workshop manuals or owners' handbooks are not considered to fall within the definition of promotional literature.

Prominence and legibility

Within promotional material, there are rules governing the appearance of the text giving the fuel consumption and CO2 figures.

The text must be:

  • easy to read
  • easily understandable
  • no less prominent than the main part of the information

Promotional literature covering a range of models is required to contain fuel consumption and official specific CO2 figures for the vehicles covered, however this can be limited to the range of data from worst to best.

A guidance note has been produced and whilst it is not exhaustive, it provides the UK Department for Transport’s view of certain aspects of the legislation. 
 

Note that the guidance notes have been updated to reflect a recent amendment to the Regulations introduced by Statutory Instrument 2013 No 65, which took effect 11 February 2013. The latest amendment included the following changes:

  • Regulation 3 extended the application of the Passenger Car (Fuel Consumption and CO2 Emissions Information) Regulations 2001 to vehicles that do not emit CO2, hydrocarbons or carbon monoxide;
  • Regulation 5 reduced the minimum height of the mandatory text box from 125mm to 80mm

Actions:

the following documents are available from www.legislation.gov.uk:

Download the display and advertising of fuel consumption Adobe PDF documentGuidance Notes (PDF 2.1MB) - version 7, last revised November 2014.

Find out fuel consumption and CO2 emissions for new and used cars with the VCA Car Fuel Data service (page opens in a new browser window).

How fuel consumption information rules are enforced

The VCA monitors a range of publications as part of the enforcement process, including:

  • national and local newspapers
  • magazines - not just those with a transport orientation
  • flyers
  • any other printed campaign material produced by car manufacturers

The most common mistakes made here are when fuel consumption and CO2 data is left out completely, or when it is shown but is less prominent than the main text. This could be through the use of a smaller font or through being displayed in a different colour that is not as prominent as the main text.

What will happen if I breach the regulations?

Penalties for breaching the regulations are considered on a case-by-case basis. The VCA will be fair, independent and objective in its approach.

If a possible infringement comes to light, the VCA will write to you outlining the circumstances and give you the opportunity to comment. A nominated Decision Officer at the VCA will then consider all the paperwork, including any explanations you have provided, before deciding what action to take.

If you are in doubt about whether your material complies with the rules, the VCA will give you an opinion before it goes to print. You can contact the VCA Adverts Enforcement Helpline on Tel 0117 952 4109, or at:

adverts web address

Please note that this is an entirely voluntary service, and VCA can only ever offer an opinion on the conformity or otherwise of a particular advertisement. Interpretation of the law remains the sole prerogative of the courts.

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