ASA Adjudication on Marshall-Tufflex Energy Management Ltd
Marshall-Tufflex Energy Management Ltd
Churchfields Industrial Estate
30 May 2012
Internet (on own site)
Number of complaints:
The website www.savepowerathome.co.uk, for a voltage optimisation device, included text in the FAQ section under the heading "how much can I save?" that stated "Voltis Home is one of the UK's most effective energy saving products. It can save up to 17% on your energy bill every year by reducing the over-supply of electricity to your home. From the comprehensive testing programme we have carried out, the Voltis Home device will save an average household around £150 per year on their energy bills. This will increase as electricity supply prices continue to rise".
The complainant challenged whether the savings claims were misleading and could be substantiated.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Marshall-Tufflex Energy Management Ltd (Marshall-Tufflex) explained that voltage optimisation was an energy saving technique that involved installing a device in series with the mains electricity supply to give an optimum supply voltage for a property's electrical equipment. They stated that most electrical equipment in the UK was designed to function at a lower voltage than the mains supply and that, by reducing the supply voltage, consumers could enjoy energy savings.
They stated that the claim "Voltis Home device will save an average household around £150 per year on their energy bills" had been based on usage figures from properties with above average electricity consumption in error. They accepted that the cost saving might not have been achievable for the "average household" and agreed to remove that claim.
They stated that the voltage of the mains electricity supply fluctuated constantly between 230 and 253 volts and that every home had a combination of appliances, made by different manufacturers and varying in age and energy efficiency, which were used differently from day to day and often in a different way from one moment to the next. They said the frequency with which the mains supply and a property's demand varied made it almost impossible to produce evidence that demonstrated the savings potential of the device in 'real world' conditions. They nevertheless provided several examples of commercial customers who claimed to have made savings in the region of 17%, along with data from a trial in a residential property. They explained that the device used in the trial had been switched on and off on alternate days over a period in excess of three months on the basis that consumption patterns would be similar on "on" and "off" days over the length of the trial. They pointed out that the trial showed an overall saving when the device was turned on.
They stated that, because of the difficulties in demonstrating the savings potential of the device, it could more easily be verified using the principles of Ohm's Law. They said their device contained a 0.91 ratio transformer which reduced the voltage supplied to the home by 9% and that, assuming constant mains supply and constant demand from the home, that voltage reduction equated to a 17.2% reduction in electricity consumption.
The ASA understood that electrical appliances did not generally need a voltage as large as the mains supply in order to operate and that the purpose of voltage optimisation was to reduce electricity consumption by reducing the voltage supplied to those appliances. We understood that voltage optimisation devices could work in various ways but that the Voltis Home device used a transformer that reduced the mains voltage by 9% which, if a constant supply and demand were maintained, would reduce the electricity used by some household appliances by 17.2%.
We noted that the website was dedicated to the Voltis Home product, which was the advertiser's voltage optimisation device marketed specifically at home owners. We considered that consumers would therefore expect savings claims on the website to be based on the level of saving they could expect to achieve in their own home. We understood that the variable nature of both the mains supply to properties and the demand from those properties meant that it was difficult to demonstrate the savings produced by the device, but we considered that claims made for the device should have been based on 'real world' trials of the product in residential properties.
Although we acknowledged that the reduced voltage supplied by the device should translate to a 17.2% reduction in the electricity consumed by some household appliances, and that a number of the advertiser's commercial clients reported that they had achieved a saving of that nature with the different optimisation devices installed at their sites, we noted that we had seen one trial only that related to the performance of Voltis Home in a residential property, and that trial did not demonstrate a saving as large as that advertised. Because we had not seen evidence that the device had delivered the advertised saving in residential properties, we considered that the claim had not been substantiated and concluded that it was likely to mislead.
The claim breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
The claim must not appear again in its current form. We told Marshall-Tufflex to ensure that claims for the device were supported by evidence of its performance in residential properties in future.