ASA Adjudication on Tennant UK Cleaning Solutions Ltd
Tennant UK Cleaning Solutions Ltd
Castle Laurie Works
13 June 2012
Internet (on own site)
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated of which one was Upheld and one was Not upheld.
A website for Tennant UK Cleaning Solutions Ltd, www.tennantco.com, was headed "ec-H2O (TM) Electrically Converted Water Technology". The ad stated "ec-H2O™ electrically converts water into a superior cleaning solution that cleans better, saves money, improves safety, and reduces environmental impact compared to traditional cleaning chemicals and methods", "Cleans Better, Scrubbing with ec-H2O removes more bacteria than scrubbing with detergents based on third party and customer testing. The technology leaves no chemical residue so your floors retain that polished look, reducing burnishing and strip/recoat cycles", "Reduce Environmental Impact, ec-H2O reduces the impact of cleaning operations on the environment by up to 98% based on third party study by EcoForm. Scrubbers equipped with ec-H2O technology scrub three times longer with a single tank of water using 70% less water than conventional scrubbing methods".
Kärcher UK Ltd challenged whether the claims:
1. that "ec-H2O (TM) technology converts water into a superior cleaning solution that cleans better ... compared to traditional cleaning chemicals and methods" misleadingly implied the advertiser's cleaning technology obtained better cleaning results than machines that used detergent; and
2. that the technology reduced costs and environmental damage caused by the use of detergents exaggerated the benefits of the product, as they did not believe equivalent or superior results could be achieved without the use of detergents.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Tennant UK Cleaning Solutions Ltd (Tennant) said the claims in their advertising were not misleading, and could be fully substantiated by documentary evidence. They said they had commissioned academic research, laboratory tests and field tests which showed that, for the typical purchaser of these products, its ec-H2O floor scrubber-dryers (scrubbers) were superior to traditional machines that used detergent. They referred to cleaning results, efficiency, direct and indirect costs, environmental considerations and health and safety as the kind of factors that would be relevant to purchasers. They said scrubber-dryers were used in environments such as warehouses and supermarkets where there are large hard surface floors to clean. They believed the high cost of scrubbers meant that most purchasers would be sophisticated buyers.
Tennant said traditional scrubbers worked by feeding a cleaning agent from a tank on the machine to the floor, which the machine then scrubbed. Tennant said the cleaning agents used were traditionally either tap water or tap water with an added cleaning chemical. They said tap water could remove dried, non-oily soils provided sufficient water was used. They also said that in most everyday situations the soils being cleaned were unlikely to be heavy duty or oil based, so low to medium strength detergent chemicals would be used.
Tennant said their ec-H2O scrubber-dryers did not need to use traditional chemical cleaners, as they used the process of electrolysis to briefly separate plain tap water into two separate streams, one acidic and one alkaline. They said the acidic stream had weak bleach-like properties, and the alkaline stream had detergent-like properties. They said the two streams retained their distinct properties for up to 30 seconds, allowing them time to be deposited on the floor and used for cleaning. They said their machine also delivered the ec-H2O water via a pump, the factory setting of which was to dispense 70% less liquid to clean the same area compared to a standard scrubber using a gravity fed mechanism.
Tennant provided a number of laboratory reports. They said these reports showed that in relation to heavy soils ec-H2O performed at parity with ordinary chemical detergents, and in relation to removing oily-acid and clay soils ec-H2O's performance was comparable to ordinary chemical detergents. They said that in relation to non-heavy duty or non-oily soils, ec-H2O was at least as effective as traditional chemical detergents, and in some cases more effective. They said these results were achieved at a 70% lower flow rate than would normally be used in conventional scrubbers, meaning it used less water, creating less waste and operating more efficiently. They supplied a report from an independent third-party laboratory which concluded ec-H2O performed "in a very similar manner to the existing detergent based methods".
Tennant provided a report on a field test which compared a scrubber-dryer using ec-H2O to one of their existing machines that used chemical detergent at a similar low flow rate (called FaST 665). The report concluded that the ec-H2O had been "performing as well as the [test venue's] standard surfactant based system and FaST-665". Tennant also provided a report on the efficacy of ec-H2O on heavy floor soils at a bottling plant. The report concluded "the ec-H2O machine's performance in removing visible soil was equal to or superior to the chemical scrubber on all floors". They said the report also concluded ec-H2O used 70% less water than conventional scrubber-dryers, and that overall the product "delivered greater ATP [a method of measuring soil levels] and bacteria reduction and higher appearance and sustainability than the floor scrubber using a designated chemical cleaner".
Tennant also provided four field tests carried out by their customers in real-life situations. They also provided a "Life Cycle Assessment" report from an independent technical analysis company.
1. Tennant believed the claim "ec-H2O (TM) technology converts water into a superior cleaning solution that cleans better ... compared to traditional cleaning chemicals and methods" could be substantiated. They said that typical customers purchasing scrubber-dryers were businesses with relatively substantial cleaning needs, and they were well educated regarding such machines and their own cleaning requirements. They said the ability of a machine to lift soils off the floor was not the only factor they would consider, and that it would be equipment capable of performing across all relevant factors that would be considered an overall "superior cleaning solution" or better cleaning result. They said their evidence demonstrated ec-H2O was, in some cases, superior in terms of removing soils from floors. They also believed their evidence demonstrated ec-H2O was able to achieve equivalent or better results to conventional machines by using significantly less water, meaning fewer tank refills and no need to spend time mixing detergent and tap water. Tennant also said the product delivered a number of cost savings to customers, primarily because the need to purchase detergent would be removed. They also said ec-H2O removed the risks associated with the handling of chemicals of chemical waste, and that it met USA standards regarding floor safety and use in food environments. Tennant believed these factors meant it was accurate to claim that ec-H2O technology converted water to a superior cleaning solution, and that it did clean better compared to traditional cleaning methods. They also believed their website made the basis for the claims clear, by providing "Third party studies", "Customer testimonials", "Awards", "Specs and Downloads” and "Videos".
2. Tennant said the various reports referred to above demonstrated that ec-H2O reduced costs for consumers by removing or reducing the need to spend money on purchasing, administration, shipping and storing chemical cleaners and disposing of chemical waste. They said the reduction in chemical waste reduced environmental damage, as did the reduction in the use of chemical cleaners. They said the reduction in water usage by up to 70% would be a substantial reduction in environmental impact compared to traditional scrubber-dryers. They said the evidence showed their machines were able to achieve these environmental benefits whilst achieving equivalent or superior results to machines using detergents.
The ASA noted the ad stated "ec-H2O (TM) technology converts water into a superior cleaning solution that cleans better ... compared to traditional cleaning chemicals and methods". We considered that, in this context, the reference to traditional cleaning materials and methods was likely to be understood by consumers to refer to scrubbers that used chemical detergents. We also noted that under the heading "Cleans Better" the ad stated "Scrubbing with ec-H2O removes more bacteria than scrubbing with detergents based on third party and customer testing. The technology leaves no chemical residue so your floors retain that polished look, reducing burnishing and strip/recoat cycles". We considered that the presentation of the ad meant that consumers were likely to understand that this was the basis for the claim "cleans better". We also considered that, in the context of the ad, consumers were likely to understand that Tennant were basing the claim "superior cleaning solution" on the fact ec-H2O "cleans better, saves money, improves safety and reduces environmental impact".
We understood that the third-party testing referred to in the ad compared the cleaning effectiveness, in a soft drink bottling plant/warehouse, of ec-H2O against a Tennant machine using traditional chemicals.. We noted that the measurements used in this study included organic load reduction, measured using ATP testing, and bacteria reduction, measured using CFU (colony forming unit) testing. We also understood the customer testing mentioned in the ad referred to a number of case studies, and that these had been provided to us. We noted these studies utilised ATP testing only, and not CFU testing, but that they did refer to these tests in relation to bacteria. We considered that because the claim "cleans better" was based in part on bacterial reduction, consumers would expect it to be supported by robust evidence that ec-H2O removed more bacteria than did detergents. We noted that Tennant believed ATP had become a commonly used and accepted method of assessing soil levels, potential for bacterial reproduction and cleaning results, and that there was a correlation between ATP measurements and bacteria levels as measured through CFU testing. We considered that the evidence supplied by Tennant indicated that in certain contexts ATP could be used as one measure of cleanliness. However, we did not consider the evidence demonstrated that ATP could be used to support a claim in relation to bacterial reduction. We understood that ATP could consist of a number of different substances, such as food residue, and that bacteria was only one of these, and that some organic materials would have naturally occurring levels of ATP. We also noted one article supplied by Tennant specifically referred to the difficulty of correlating ATP readings with CFUs. We therefore considered that evidence in relation to ATP was not sufficient to support the claim that ec-H2O removed more bacteria than detergents.
We noted the third-party test used CFU testing which involved swabs being taken at five different areas within the site over a period of three days, and that there was approximately a 5% difference in average bacteria reduction between ec-H2O and chemical scrubbing. However, we considered the number of measurements taken was small, and did not consider Tennant had demonstrated the results were statistically significant. We also noted the report did not appear to have considered whether other factors may have influenced the results. We therefore considered the evidence was not sufficiently robust to substantiate the claim.
We considered that the ad made clear that the claim "ec-H2O (TM) technology converts water into a superior cleaning solution that cleans better ... compared to traditional cleaning chemicals and methods" was based on ec-H2O removing more bacteria than detergents, as well as saving money, improving safety and reducing environmental impact. However, because Tennant had not provided sufficiently robust evidence to substantiate the claim in relation to bacteria, we concluded it was misleading.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.11 (Exaggeration) and 3.38 (Other comparisons).
2. Not upheld
We noted Kärcher (UK) Ltd (Kärcher), the complainant, believed the claim that ec-H2O reduced costs and environmental damage caused by the use of detergents exaggerated the benefits of the product, as they did not believe equivalent or superior results could be achieved without the use of detergents. We considered that, because the claim compared the impact on the environment of ec-H2O with that of a "conventional scrubbing method", consumers would expect the product to clean to a standard that meant they could use it in place of a scrubber dryer that used detergents, as otherwise the comparison would be misleading.
We noted that there were no industry standard tests for scrubbers. We took expert advice in relation to the evidence provided by Tennant. Our expert advised that it appeared from the evidence that there were circumstances where ec-H2O was less effective at cleaning in general than conventional products, particularly where the soil load was very heavy or the soil was very difficult to hydrate. However, we noted that the evidence referring to this was from laboratory testing rather than "real-life" testing. Our expert advised that the four "real-life" studies indicated that on average, using ec-H2O led to improved cleaning results in terms of both ATP reduction (an indicator of organic material) and floor gloss readings, compared to traditional detergents. We noted these studies took place in a bottling plant that had heavy floor soils, a retailer distribution centre, and two supermarkets. We considered these studies represented a reasonable range of situations in which customers were likely to use scrubbers.
We noted Kärcher did not believe ec-H2O was capable of cleaning better than plain "unactivated" tap water, and that the evidence of real-life testing supplied by Tennant compared ec-H2O to detergents rather than plain water. However, we also noted Kärcher stated detergents were used approximately in 80% of cleaning operations with scrubbers, and considered this meant comparisons between ecH2O and traditional detergents were of most relevance to consumers. We also noted the comparisons in the ad specifically referred to chemicals and detergents. We considered the evidence suggested there may be some situations where ec-H2O would not be as effective in general cleaning as conventional cleaning products, particularly if there was a high level of staining or a very high soil load. However, we considered that customers purchasing a scrubber would be aware of whether or not they fell into these categories and would consider this when purchasing a scrubber, particularly because they were expensive machines and expected to last a number of years. We also noted the ad did not claim the product cleaned better in all circumstances. We considered the evidence provided by Tennant demonstrated consumers would be able to use ec-H2O in place of their chemical scrubber-dryers.
We noted the ad qualified the claim to reduce environmental impact by stating "ec-H2O reduces the impact of cleaning operations on the environment by up to 98% based on third-party study by EcoForm. Scrubbers equipped with ec-H2O technology scrub three times longer with a single tank of water using 70% less water than conventional scrubbing methods". Our expert advised us that the Life Cycle Assessment, which compared ec-H2O to a typical chemical-based floor cleaning system, was professionally undertaken and that its conclusions appeared sound. Our expert considered that savings on packaging waste may not be as large as the report suggested as it assumed machines were used five times a week, and many machines may not be used this often. Our expert also advised us that it appeared that ec-H2O scrubbers used up to 70% less water than conventional scrubbers, although the evidence suggested that the average water savings were slightly less than this. For this reason he believed the overall water saving suggested in the Life Cycle Assessment may be slightly too high. We noted that some of the evidence supplied by Tennant related to tests conducted on prototypes, where the flow rate was set at 60%, rather than 70%, although we also noted that the flow rate was likely to reduce slightly when the amount of water in the tank diminished. However, because our expert advised us that, in general, the evidence demonstrated ec-H2O created only a fraction of the environmental impact associated with chemical-based floor cleaning, we considered that this was unlikely to materially affect consumer perception of the benefits of the product.
We considered the evidence supplied by Tennant demonstrated that ec-H2O could clean to a standard that meant consumers could use it in place of a scrubber-dryer that used detergents. We also considered that the evidence demonstrated ec-H2O saved money and reduced environmental damage in comparison to cleaning with detergents. We therefore concluded that the claim did not mislead or exaggerate the benefits of the product.
On this point we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.11 (Exaggeration), 3.38 (Other comparisons), 11.1 and 11.3 (Environmental claims) but did not find it in breach.
The ad must not appear again in its current form.