Ad for ‘Covid safe’ London cabs full of porky pies, guv

taxiLondon cabbies might not be best known as purveyors of the truth but it seems even they have gone too far this time, after a radio campaign for their organisation, the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, has been banned for exaggerating Covid-19 safety measures.

The campaign, which ran in July, featured the voice of a woman speaking with the sound of a taxi in the background.

The woman stated: “Me, I’m no different to anyone else right now. I’m concerned about my well-being so I always hail a black London cab. The permanent screen keeps me divided from the driver, it’s like being in my own bubble back here. Sat on the back seat, they’re over two metres from me. And with contactless payments, it’s even safer. I’m a black cab customer and I’m confident I’m safe. Oh, just here please.”

However, one consumer, who believed the ad exaggerated the ways in which London black cabs could prevent the spread of the virus, challenged whether it was misleading by rifling off a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.

In response to the ASA inquiry, the LTDA said that in a London black cab there was a partition between driver and passengers and that, when there were gaps in the partition, it was possible to seal them. It said there was a distance of 2 metres, with the partition between driver and passengers.

The LTDA added that the interior was made from hard and easy to clean plastics which were cleaned between rides and there were separate air systems in the front and back of the taxi. Radiocentre provided details with the internal dimensions of three models of London black cab.

However, on closer inspection, the ad watchdog found that while two of the models had a 2 metre distance, in the third the distance was “2 metres or less”. This, the ASA said, meant it was not always possible to sit “over” 2 metres from the driver in the way the ad claimed.

On the partition screen between driver and passengers, the ASA noted it was possible to install an additional seal to further restrict airflow between the two sections of the taxi but guidance from Transport for London had stated that the risk of infection would not be eliminated entirely.

Also, there is no requirement on drivers to install the additional seal, meaning it would not always be possible to sit in a “bubble” completely separated from the driver, as implied by the ad.

The ASA ruling states: “We therefore considered the ad exaggerated the extent to which features of a London black cab would reduce the spread of Covid-19 and was therefore misleading.”

Banning the ad from running again in that form, the watchdog also warned the LTDI about its future advertising claims.

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