Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Ryanair Ltd (Ryanair)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 5 February 2020
Law stated as at: 2 March 2020
The ASA launched an investigation against a (i) press, (ii) TV and (iii) radio ad from Ryanair featuring the following claims:
- “Europe’s … Lowest Emissions Airline”;
- “Ryanair has the lowest carbon emissions of any major airline“; and
- “Low CO2 emissions. Based on the top 27 European airlines“.
The ASA appreciated that consumers would understand the claims to mean that by flying with Ryanair, their journey would generate less CO2 than with other European airlines and would not understand it to mean that airline travel would be low in carbon emissions in absolute terms.
The investigation considered whether the claims made by Ryanair were misleading and the ASA upheld the complaint based on the following points:
- the calculation was based on factors such as CO2 emission per passenger/per mile, the relatively young fleet, and seat density – the later had not been disclosed in the ad but would have been needed for consumers to adequately understand the claim. The TV and radio ads did not include any information on how the carbon emission was calculated;
- in the press ad, Ryanair compared itself to only four European airlines that they considered “major”, even though a definition of “major” does not exist. Consumers would understand such a claim to mean in comparison to the airlines they know, being more than the four airlines that Ryanair compared itself against. It was not made clear that the comparison was not market wide; and
- the evidence provided by Ryanair, the Bright Planet chart, did not show the underlying ratio of each airline compared to its CO2 emissions and therefore it could not definitively be determined that Ryanair had the lowest emissions. In addition, the chart did not include some well-known airlines and was from 2011 and was deemed of little value for comparisons made in 2019.
The ASA held that the claims had not been made clear in the ads and that the evidence provided did not sufficiently substantiate the claims that Ryanair was the lowest carbon emission airline.
Why this matters:
Environment and efficiency related claims in advertising have seen an increase as consumers become more conscious of how and with whom they spend their money with advertisers continuing to praise the efficiency of their products without sufficient evidence. Advertisers should take care that sufficient evidence is available to substantiate any “green claims”. The claim should clearly explain how a comparison claim has been reached and against who the comparison is made. Evidence should not be outdated as it will otherwise lose all evidential value.