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Complainant Name:
S & R Motors

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Swindon Advertiser


S & R Motors complained through solicitors that an article headlined "Trading Standards investigate garage", published by the Swindon Advertiser on 30 January 2014, was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

The article reported concerns by a member of the public about an alleged defect in a used car she had bought from the complainants, and her dissatisfaction at being given contradictory accounts by the complainants and another garage about whether it was roadworthy. The complainants said that the headline was inaccurate: while a referral had been made, Trading Standards were not investigating it. Further, the complainants disputed the customer's comments and denied what they understood as the suggestion that they had behaved dishonestly or negligently by allowing the customer to drive an unsafe vehicle.

The newspaper initially did not respond to the Commission's request for its comments for 13 days; it explained that it had believed that the complainants were pursuing legal action. After the complainants' representatives confirmed that this was not the case, the newspaper removed the article from its website. There was then a further delay of 42 days before it provided a substantive response to the complaint. It accepted that the headline was inaccurate and explained that it had been written by a sub editor at its "remote subbing hub". It offered to publish a clarification on this point.



The Editors' Code requires publication of a correction or clarification "promptly and with due prominence" once a significant inaccuracy is recognised. The power of a remedy is inevitably weakened the longer the original inaccuracy is permitted to remain uncorrected. In this instance, the complainants had made the newspaper aware of a straightforward and easily verifiable inaccuracy on the day of publication, which had stemmed from a failure to take appropriate care over the article's headline. It was unacceptable that the newspaper had not offered a clarification on this point until two months had passed; this was not "prompt", and therefore it was insufficient to remedy the initial breach of Clause 1.

In addition, the preamble to the Code makes clear that editors must "co-operate swiftly with the PCC in the resolution of complaints". The Commission noted that even in the absence of an uncorrected significant inaccuracy, it would have upheld the complaint on the basis of the newspaper's delay in providing a substantive response to the complaint. The Commission was extremely concerned by the deficiencies in the newspaper's complaints handling process, as exhibited in this instance.

The complainants' remaining concerns related to the publication of the customer's allegations in the text of the article. The Commission noted that the allegations had been put to the complainants before publication, and their response had been published. It was plain that the condition of the vehicle had not been established. There was no further breach of the Code in this regard.

Date Published:

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