Halfords AutocentreDavid Jones/PA

Trusted retailer Halfords Autocentres has been forced to modify an advert which was deemed to be misleading to motorists.

The advert about deals the firm was running on car servicing received criticism from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Now the retailer has been forced to amend the advert by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The advert touting great deals for motorists said: "Car Service - save up to 50 per cent on main dealer pricing!! We are offering great discounts on our car servicing - you can save up to 50 per cent on main dealer service prices, even though our services are the same, and in many cases even more thorough than that [sic] of a dealership."

But the SMMT challenged whether the claim "Save up to 50 per cent on main dealer pricing" was misleading and could be substantiated, because it did not make clear the basis of the comparison or take into account the class of vehicle or regional pricing variations.

The organisation was also concerned whether the advertiser was comparing like-for-like services.

The issue was upheld, with the ASA concluding: "The comparison Halfords had made between their own time-limited, online prices and the non-promotional prices quoted by the car dealerships surveyed was not made on a like-for-like basis. We therefore concluded that the claim was misleading."

Paul Everitt
Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive, pictured above, said: "I am pleased the ASA has upheld SMMT's complaint about Halfords' servicing offer which was found to have broken six parts of the Committee of Advertising Practice guidelines. Manufacturer main dealers offer a high value and expert service to their customers."

Halfords has expressed their disappointment at the situation. In a statement, Halfords Autocentres chief executive Bill Duffy said: "Under European law, independent aftermarket providers like us - who maintain and repair vehicles in line with the manufacturer's standards - can save motorists hundreds of pounds in some cases whilst preserving their existing warranty.

"We are disappointed that the SMMT resorted to using the ASA as a referee in a battle between the interests of franchised dealers and the quality independent aftermarket, a dispute that will result in only one real loser - the motorist."

Duffy added: "We also have evidence that shows a worrying trend towards drivers delaying essential car maintenance in order to save money – so clearly any opportunity to cut costs without cutting corners should be encouraged.

"Our independent research identifies just how much motorists are having to pay more to use manufacturer approved dealer franchises whose charges are higher in a large proportion of cases."