ASA Adjudication on Ecowarmth (SW) Ltd
Ecowarmth (SW) Ltd
12 September 2012
Internet (on own site), Regional press
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
A press ad and a website advertising heating systems:
a. The press ad stated "ecowarmth UNTRUTHS AND SIMPLE FACTS ... FACTS ECOWARMTH IS ONE OF THE VERY FEW COMPANIES TO HAVE CERTIFIED AND INDEPENDENT TEST RESULTS FOR HOW EFFECTIVE THEIR SYSTEM IS. ONLY 12 MINS ENERGY PER HOUR REQUIRED FOR 60 MINS HOUR OF HEAT! A SIMILAR SYSTEM OFFERED LOCALLY CLAIMS TO NEED 17 MINS ENERGY PER HOUR FOR 60 MINS OF HEAT. THIS MEANS THEIR SYSTEM WILL HAVE RUNNING COSTS 40% HIGHER THAN THE ECOWARMTH RADIATORS! SO CHOOSE ECOWARMTH - YOU KNOW IT MAKES SENSE!".
b. Claims on the home page of the website, stated "INDEPENDENT TESTS CONFIRM LOW ENERGY USAGE Recent Independent Tests by a UKAS accredited laboratory, confirm that the Ecowarmth Radiators on average need LESS than 12 minutes of electricity per hour to provide a full 60 minutes of required warmth!* This means that 20% of your heat is the part you pay for at whatever tariff you have - and the other 80% of your heat is from stored heat and so is FREE! * see downloads for summary of report".
South West Heating Solutions (SWHS) challenged whether:
1. the claim "ECOWARMTH IS ONE OF THE VERY FEW COMPANIES TO HAVE CERTIFIED AND INDEPENDENT TEST RESULTS FOR HOW EFFECTIVE THEIR SYSTEM IS" was misleading and could be substantiated because they did not believe the test results were certified by an outside organisation;
2. the claim "THIS MEANS THEIR SYSTEM WILL HAVE RUNNING COSTS 40% HIGHER THAN THE ECOWARMTH RADIATORS" was misleading and could be substantiated; and
3. the claim "and the other 80% of your heat is from stored heat and so is FREE!" was misleading, because the stored heat was converted from energy which had been paid for by the customer.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Ecowarmth said that in 2009, they had their heating system tested by Advantica (now trading as GL Industrial Services UK Ltd), an independent engineering consultancy who were accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to carry out testing for clients, mainly in the global oil and gas industries. Ecowarmth chose Advantica because they had a test house where the heating system could be installed and tested. While they understood from the BRE (Building Research Establishment), that at the time of testing, there was no officially recognised test for electrical heating systems, Advantica had tested the heating system using standards they considered were as appropriate as possible at that time.
Ecowarmth believed they had done their utmost to show that their testing was both independent and certified, in as much that the results of the testing were attested in a formal statement by Advantica in their final test report, which Ecowarmth supplied. They therefore did not believe the claim was misleading.
2. Ecowarmth said the claim was based on the complainant's claim that SWHS' system took 17 minutes to generate 60 minutes of heat. Ecowarmth believed their testing had shown that their system had taken just 12 minutes to generate the same amount of heat, assuming that a 1 kW (kilowatt) radiator was used by both them and the complainant during testing. They said the claim was based on a basic electricity tariff of 13.68p/kWh and therefore their system was 1.2p per hour cheaper than the complainant's; they said that was a difference of 44% and the claim was substantiated.
3. Ecowarmth explained that if a customer used an inefficient electric heater (without a heat storage facility) for one hour, they would pay for the full hour of electricity needed to generate heat during that time. They said if a customer only needed to have the heater turned on for 12 minutes to generate an hour of heat, that meant they were only paying to generate heat for 20% of the hour (i.e. 12 minutes). They therefore believed that the rest of the heat (for 80% of that hour) coming from the radiator in that hour was free.
The ASA noted the test report sent by Ecowarmth which we considered did show that their system had been tested independently. However, as we understood the testing had been carried out by a UKAS accredited laboratory, we took advice from UKAS. They advised that in order to demonstrate that testing was also certified, Ecowarmth needed to provide us with a certificate to show the testing itself was accredited. We also noted that the test report featured a disclaimer which stated "The issuing of this report does not indicate or imply any measure of approval/ certification/recommendation/guarantee/endorsement of any product/manufacturer/ supplier/user". While we were satisfied that the testing was independent and that part of the claim was not misleading, we noted the test report also stated that the testing method was not UKAS accredited.
We noted Ecowarmth's view that the tests had been certified because their results had been attested by Advantica. However, we considered the claim implied the tests had been certified by an appropriate or relevant body. We had not seen evidence that was the case and we therefore concluded that claim was misleading.
On this point, ad (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
Ecowarmth's claim was based on a 1 kW radiator, an electricity tariff of 13.68p/kWh and their own test results which they believed showed a radiator would take 12 minutes to generate sufficient warmth to heat the rooms to the temperatures measured. However, the test report had actually stated that Ecowarmth's system had taken an average 14.02 minutes of electricity. We noted the test had been carried out using a two-bedroom detached property, used a combination of different radiators (500 W, 800 W, 1 kW and 1.2 kW) and in bedroom two, the window had been left open. We understood the test report considered that had the window been shut in bedroom two, the radiator in that room would have used 1.78 kW per 24 hours. Taking that energy usage into account, the report estimated it would have taken 11.86 minutes of electricity to generate the required warmth. However, we had not seen evidence of testing where the window of bedroom two had been closed or any evidence which supported the estimated electricity usage or time of 11.86 minutes.
Furthermore, we understood Ecowarmth based their comparative claim on their test results and the time quoted by the complainant. However, we considered when making such a claim Ecowarmth should do so on a fair basis. They did not provide evidence to demonstrate that the complainant's testing had been carried out under similar, controlled conditions as theirs and we noted the claim was based on the cost of a 1 kWh radiator for 12 minutes, whereas their test results had used a number of radiators and a combination of kW/h outputs. We did not know how the complainant's time of 17 minutes had been reached or whether they had only used 1kWh radiators or a combination like Ecowarmth had done. Additionally, it was not clear why the tariff of 13.68p had been chosen or whether that price was dependent on a particular payment method or other billing conditions. We had not seen evidence for the source of that electricity tariff and they had not explained why that particular tariff had been chosen. Taking all those factors into account, we considered we had not seen adequate evidence to substantiate the claim "THIS MEANS THEIR SYSTEM WILL HAVE RUNNING COSTS 40% HIGHER THAN THE ECOWARMTH RADIATORS" and concluded it was misleading.
On this point, ad (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.38 (Other comparisons).
We noted Ecowarmth's argument but disagreed. Although their system allowed for heat to be stored for use at a later time, customers still needed to pay for the electricity which had generated that stored heat. Because of that, we considered that stored heat was not free and. concluded the claim was misleading.
On this point, the claim in ad (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 (Misleading advertising).
The ads must no longer appear. We told Ecowarmth not to imply their product had been certified by an appropriate body, when that was not the case. We told them not to make comparative running costs unless they held adequate and robust substantiation for those claims and not to claim or imply that stored heat was free.