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ad standards

Harvey Norman's 'dangerous driving' and Volkswagen's carbon claims fall foul of ads watchdog

A total of 12 complaints were upheld by the ad standards body.

AN ADVERT FOR department store Harvey Norman as well as claims about Volkswagen cars’ carbon neutrality are among two of the advertisement complaints upheld by the ad standards authority. 

In total, 12 advertisements across radio, television, online, email and outdoor were found to be in breach of the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) Code on grounds related to a range of issues including misleading/substantiation, recognisability and pricing, health and beauty and financial services.

The Complaints Committee is a completely independent arm of the ASAI and is responsible for considering and adjudicating on complaints submitted by the public, by an organisation, by a Government Department, or any other person or body.  

Harvey Norman

A television ad for Harvey Norman promoting Irish mattresses opened with an aerial view of a Harvey Norman delivery truck driving on a country road. The truck rounded a wide bend and was shown driving over the single white centre line.

The complainant, a driving instructor, considered that the advertising was promoting a dangerous driving manoeuvre by showing the truck drive over a continuous white line. 

The ASAI Executive also sought an opinion from the Road Safety Authority (RSA) on the advertisement. The RSA advised that the truck was travelling over the white line which was contrary to the rules of the road and posed a potential danger to oncoming road users.

The ASAI instructed Harvey Norman that the advertisement should not appear in its current form again.


The German car giant got in trouble with the ad standards agency over claims it made over its electric vehicles. 

A radio ad for Volkswagen included the following statement: “That’s the sound of a quieter, cleaner future led by Volkswagen. Ireland’s best selling car brand. Led by our all electric, carbon neutral ID 3 and ID 4 models and our plug-in hybrid range led by all of you joining us on our way to a zero-carbon future.”

However, the complainant considered that the claim that the cars were “carbon neutral” was misleading, as they did not consider that electric cars were carbon neutral either during their manufacturing process or when they were being charged using electricity that was generated by fossil fuels.

Volkswagen said that both models of cars were manufactured and delivered to their Irish retailers with a certified carbon neutral balance.

They said that the certification was granted by TUV Nord, an independent regulatory body in Germany and they provided a copy of the ID.3’s certificate and advised that the ID.4 certificate had just been confirmed as the model had only been launched.

Volkswagen said that the certificate applied to the manufacture of the vehicle, the delivery to their European retailers and the first charge of the vehicle as they used 100% green energy.

They said that the models in question had no local CO2 emissions as they were fully electric, and they recommend 100% green energy for at home charging and the IONITY public charging network that uses 100% green energy in Ireland. 

Despite the certifications, the ASAI ruled that the electric vehicles were carbon neutral on delivery to the customer, there was no guarantee that they would continue to be carbon neutral while being charged after delivery. They ordered that the ad not run its in current format again. 

You can read the other upheld complaints in full here

Orla Twomey, Chief Executive of the ASAI, stated: “The latest complaints bulletin from the ASAI illustrates our ability to ensure that ads in Ireland stick to the advertising rules.

“The main role of the ASAI, is to ensure that advertisements and marketing communications are legal, truthful, decent, and honest, prepared with a sense of social responsibility to the consumer and society and with proper respect for the principles of fair competition.”

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