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Ensuring energy efficiency claims are not hot air

10 January 2013

We’re supporting the launch of an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) campaign to promote good business practice amongst companies in the energy efficiency sector by producing some helpful tips for consumers.

Rising energy prices and cold winter months mean many consumers are looking to save money in the home through better energy efficiency. This has created a competitive sector in which companies often target consumers by promoting the environmental credentials and cost-effectiveness of their products. Competition is good for consumer choice but it can occasionally result in advertisers making exaggerated claims in their ads. Whether you’re responding to an ad for insulation, double-glazing or solar panels, our tips aim to help you shop with confidence this winter season.

Our tips when buying energy efficiency products:

  • Check the claims if you’re unsure. If you are unsure how a claim for how much money or energy a product could save you has been calculated, ask the advertiser to explain how they’ve worked it out, or contact us if you think you’ve been misled. 

  • Check the energy labelling. Advertisers are required, under EU law, to include energy efficiency labels in ads for certain household products (including refrigerators and freezers, washing machines, ovens and lamps), using an A+++ (most efficient) to G (least efficient) rating system. Using the most efficient products can give you the best savings on your energy bills over time. More info can be found here.

  • Environmental claims in focus – Environmental claims in ads should be clear; they shouldn’t mislead consumers about the product’s total environmental impact. For example if a lawn mower is advertised as ‘environmentally friendly’ then the advertiser must be able to prove the product produces no environmental damage over its full life cycle, unless they state otherwise. Read more here

  • If you see something that seems misleading, contact us. If you do come across an advert that you believe is misleading, you can make a complaint to the ASA online, by post or phone (020 7492 2222). You can find more information here.

A review carried out by the OFT found that the behaviour of some businesses in the energy efficiency sector is putting consumer confidence at risk. These practices include the use of high pressure sales techniques, unclear information about paperwork and cancellation rights, and poor quality installations. In response to the findings the OFT has produced guidance for consumers about their rights and has also contacted businesses to highlight the type of practices they should avoid.

Advertising plays an important part in informing consumer choice. Our role is to protect consumers from misleading ads so that they can trust the ads they see and hear. We can look into your concerns that particular ads are potentially misleading or contain claims that aren’t supported by evidence and remove any that break the rules. We hope our tips, along with the guidance from the OFT, will help consumers to shop for energy efficiency products with trust and confidence.

Examples of ASA rulings involving energy claims: 

B&Q plc – Loft insulation 

A Touch of Glass – double glazing

Further information 

CAP code 

Environmental claims 

OFT energy efficiency campaign

DEFRA - EU energy label guidance

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