Who: Stanley Black & Decker UK Ltd (“SBD”), Dyson Ltd (“Dyson”) and the Advertising Standards Authority (the “ASA”)
When: 3 February 2016
Law stated as at: 17 February 2016
SBD made three claims across four areas of its website for the “ORA Technology” range of cordless vacuum cleaners, which were viewed on 30 March 2015.
The three claims were:
- “Picks up first time again and again and again” on a scrolling banner on the website’s homepage (“Ad A”);
- “Picks up first time again and again and again*” on a different webpage, with text at the bottom of the webpage qualifying the claim: “*visible debris on even hard floor surfaces” (“Ad B”); and
- “Powerful airflow and motorised beater bar provides one pass pick up performance, even with heavier debris” on two different webpages featuring different vacuum cleaner models (“Ad C”).
- whether the three claims were misleading and could be substantiated; and
- in relation to Ad B, whether the qualifying text at the bottom of the web page contradicted the headline claim and whether the qualifying text was presented clearly.
Ad A: Banner: “Picks up first time again and again and again“
SBD responded that the pick-up performance of the vacuum cleaners was tested in accordance with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Standard 60312 (the “IEC Standard”) and SBD’s own additional tests. SBD’s own tests were adapted from the IEC Standard tests to check the pick-up performance of the vacuum cleaners on everyday household debris. The vacuum cleaners had an average pick-up performance of over 99% in the IEC Standard tests. In relation to its own test, which was run once, both vacuum cleaners picked up visible debris on hard flat floor surfaces and medium-to-large debris from carpets on the first attempt. SBD provided test results and stated that they were willing to carry out the tests again if required.
SBD also argued that Ad A was sufficiently qualified by the further information available in the text at the bottom of Ad B. Clicking on Ad A would take site visitors to Ad B
SBD defended the qualification being on a separate webpage by arguing that the banner (Ad A) was supposed to encourage consumers to find out more information about the ORA Technology range and led to the webpage carrying Ad B that provided the qualification.
SBD added that Ad A was only used in ads containing imagery or content that showed the vacuum cleaner being used on hard floor surfaces.
Ad B: Webpage Picks up first time again and again and again*” with qualifying wording
SBD argued that the claim here did not state that the vacuum cleaner will pick up 100% of debris first time, every time, on all floor surfaces. The qualification was to support and explain the claim and did not contradict it or mislead consumers. The qualification was adequately displayed, both in size and position, SBD argued. Nonetheless, SBD was willing to amend the presentation if necessary.
Ad C “Powerful airflow and motorised beater bar provides one pass pick up performance, even with heavier debris“
SBD accepted that this claim was incorrect and “provides one pass pick up performance” had been replaced by “for optimized pick up performance“.
“ The ASA’s ruling
Ad A: “Picks up first time again and again and again“
The ASA held that the presentation of the banner meant that the claim was likely to be viewed as a standalone and unqualified claim. It therefore disregarded the qualifying text at the bottom of Ad B for these purposes.
Referring to CAP’s guidance on ‘Vacuum cleaner marketing’, the ASA stated that “marketers should ensure that they carried out appropriate tests that followed, or were of an equivalent standard to, the current relevant IEC Standard to support all objective claims regarding vacuum cleaner pick-up performance”.
The ASA reviewed the data provided by SBD and took expert advice, finding that (a) the tests conducted were not adequate to support advertising claims as to pick-up performance (b) the IEC Standards tests conducted were not the most up to date (c) SBD had not tested performance on carpet and hard floor with crevices and (d) SBD did not test whether pick-up performances were maintained as the receptacles filled.
Based on this, the ASA found that this claim ising claims about pick-up performance”.
Therefore, the ASA ruled that this claim had not been substantiated and was therefore misleading.
Ad B: “Picks up first time again and again and again” with qualifying wording
The ASA ruled that the qualifying text was not displayed sufficiently clearly to consumers. This was because the headline text was in a large and capitalised font at the top of the webpage whereas the qualifying text was in very small print at the bottom and not visible to consumers unless they scrolled to the bottom of the page.
In addition, the ASA stated that “even if the qualification had been presented immediately following the headline claim it would be contradictory, because the headline claim implied that the vacuum cleaners picked up all types of debris first time, from all types of floor surface, as the receptacle filled, whereas the qualification stated that the claim applied only to even (hard) flat floor surfaces“.
Ad C: “Powerful airflow and motorised beater bar provides one pass pick up performance, even with heavier debris”
The ASA believed that consumers would interpret this claim to mean that “in the vast majority of cases the vacuums would pick up all types of debris, including heavier debris, from all types of floor surface, with the first pass of the vacuum cleaner, in normal domestic use”. However, as the tests conducted by SBD should have been of or equivalent to IEC Standard but were not, there was inadequate substantiation behind this claim. The ASA added that the amendment made by SBD would not affect the way that a consumer interprets the claim.
Why this matters:
Advertisers should ensure that:
- any tests conducted to substantiate claims should be in accordance with the most recent relevant industry standards
- if a claim needs to be qualified, it should be qualified every time that it is made and advertisers should not rely on a consumer clicking through to another webpage; and
- qualifications must be presented clearly and not contradict the headline claim that they are intended to qualify.