A footnote to a press ad for the Quadrio “revolutionary four door fridge freezer,” explained the basis of the ad’s environmental headline. But did this qualify or contradict the claim? Omar Bucchioni reports yet another enviro-bloomer.
Who: ASA and Indesit Company UK Ltd t/a Hotpoint
When: 13 May 2009
Law stated as at: 31 May 2009
Recently the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated a national press ad claim for a fridge/freezer made by Indesit t/a Hotpoint. The text underneath the headline “Quadrio. The revolutionary new 4 door fridge freezer” stated: “[…] it features independently opening doors and can save you 50% energy*”. The footnoted text at the bottom of the ad explained “*Compared to a standard 2-door 70cm wide fridge freezer. Saving based on a reduction in heat gain or cold air loss by opening one fridge door or one freezer drawer”.
The ASA received only one complaint. This challenged whether the claim “save up to 50% energy” was misleading in that it implied that the product could save 50% of the total energy used by a fridge freezer, rather than saving the energy required to restore the internal temperature of a compartment once the door had been opened.
Indesit Company is an Italian company based in Fabriano (AN), is currently the Europe’s second ranking manufacturer of household appliances (http://www.indesitcompany.com/pages/en/facts/merloni_at_a_glance.jsp). They replied to the ASA saying that “the footnoted text clearly stated that the energy saving claim related to the opening of the fridge and freezer drawers and not to the total energy used by the fridge freezer.” In addition, Indesit provided the ASA with the results of research carried out on the product in order to substantiate their claim.
ASA scrutinises fridge door research but was anything inside?
The ASA studied the results of the research.
The results indeed showed that, in terms of probability, the energy saving for the fridge and freezer door in combination was greater than 50%. However, the ASA noted that they had not seen any data that measured the actual energy used by either the Quadrio or control fridge-freezer overall, or in relation to fridge and freezer door opening.
There was also no suggestion that the tests had been carried out on fridges containing food.
Since the amount of energy used by a fridge freezer would depend on how full the unit was, the ASA considered that the test as conducted would not necessarily represent consumers’ use of the product.
Total saving or just when door opens?
Even if the research had been conducted on fridge freezers containing more than air, this would not have solved the problem.
The ASA also considered that consumers were likely to understand the body copy claim “can save you up to 50% energy” to mean that the Quadrio used up to 50% less energy in total compared to other models, rather than to refer to the loss of cold air caused by opening one fridge or freezer door. Although Indesit provided a footnoted text explaining the basis of the claim, the ASA considered that the text contradicted rather than qualified the body copy claim.
As a result, the ASA concluded that the ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation) and 7.1 and 7.2 (Truthfulness) and was therefore misleading.
Why this matters:
This is another example of how deep an ASA investigation can look into an ad. The message for advertisers is that researches used to substantiate claims should be carried out under “consumers’ use of the product” condition when no comparisons are made with other models. In addition, a footnoted text might not help to redeem a misleading heading if in reality it contradicts it. The full ASA adjudication can be found at: http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/adjudications/Public/TF_ADJ_46229.htm.