ASA Adjudication on Bright Networks Ltd
Bright Networks Ltd t/a
2 Princes Square
9 January 2013
Brochure, National press
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Five issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
A mailing, which comprised a letter and brochure, and two national press ads, which advertised Bright Heating electric storage heaters:
a. The letter, under the heading "What our customers say about us" included various testimonials, including one from "Mr Cattermole, Lancashire - April 2012". The testimonial stated "I had my old radiators and new German made ones fitted by Bright Heating. ... I would strongly recommend both them and the radiators to anyone thinking of upgrading their heating. The big bonus with the radiators is the saving on the electricity bill". The brochure, under the heading "On demand controllable warmth when you need it most", included text which stated "These storage radiators use the latest German ceramic technology which makes them stay warmer for longer. Also fifteen minutes of energy can maintain sixty minutes of heat, so they're economical too!". Further claims stated "Turn up the heat, turn down the cost!", "Join our 1000s of cosy customers already saving £££s with Bright Heating", "Electricity drawdown is low, working out for many rooms at 4p* per hour ... *subject to tariff", and "Independent tests, both in the UK and Germany, show that to heat a large living room on a cold day with one of our 2KW German dynamic storage radiators to a steady and comfortable 71 degrees Fahrenheit will require electricity for only 15 minutes in every hour".
b. The first national press ad, published in the Mail on Sunday, was headed "£450 TRADE IN** When you sign up to the installation of a new energy saving heating system from Bright Heating". Further text stated "These storage radiators use the latest German ceramic technology which makes them stay warmer for longer. Also fifteen minutes of energy can maintain sixty minutes of heat, * so they're economical too!". Small print stated "*Tests based on BS EN 60675:1995 (household electric direct - acting room heaters, methods for measuring performance) as conducted by BSRIA. **Dependent on the number of radiators traded in".
c. The second national press ad, published in the Sunday Telegraph, was headed "Take back control of your heating". Further text stated "Bright Heating is the only national company to offer this system ... We believe this fantastic system is the most practical and economical heating solution available in the world!".
The ASA received two complaints.
Both complainants challenged whether:
1. the stated and implied claims in the ads about the performance of the advertiser's electric storage heaters and the resulting reduction in electricity bills, such as "fifteen minutes of energy can maintain sixty minutes of heat, so they're economical too!", were misleading and could be substantiated; and
2. the stated and implied claims in the ads that the advertiser's electric storage heaters performed better than other electric storage heaters, such as "We believe this fantastic system is the most practical and economical heating solution in the world!", were misleading and could be substantiated.
3. One complainant challenged whether the claim "Join our 1000s of cosy customers" could be substantiated, because they did not believe the company had operated long enough to have had thousands of customers.
4. One complainant challenged whether the claim "£450 TRADE IN** When you sign up to the installation of a new energy saving heating system from Bright Heating" in ad (b) was misleading, because the ad did not explain on what basis the advertised trade-in price would be paid.
5. One complainant challenged whether the claim "Bright Heating is the only national company to offer this system" in ad (c) was misleading and could be substantiated, because they understood the heaters were also sold by other companies in the UK.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Brightnetworks Ltd t/a Bright Heating (BH) provided a copy of a report which detailed three tests on one of their storage heaters, conducted by an industry consultancy and research organisation. The tests were carried out on behalf of BH and Cornwall Heating Solutions t/a South West Heating Solutions (SWHS), which BH described as their 'sister company'. Based on the findings of the report, BH had calculated that their heaters operated for between 20 and 28% of each hour to maintain a specific temperature, dependent on ambient conditions and insulation. They considered those calculations supported the performance claims for their heaters.
BH also provided their calculations based on the findings of the report, which they said substantiated their money-saving claims and the claim that many rooms could be heated for 4p per hour. They also provided copies of testimonials from BH customers, and Customer Feedback forms from SWHS customers. The BH testimonials, the majority of which were dated between June and August 2012, were from nine customers including Mr Cattermole. The testimonial from Mr Cattermole was the only one which mentioned savings. BH said that if Mr Cattermole had written that he had saved money by using their radiators they had to believe him. They said that not everybody would achieve the same savings, because people lived in different ways and there was therefore no finite equation. They said that they explained this to every potential customer they saw. The SWHS Customer Feedback forms were from eight respondents. BH explained that SWHS installed the same radiators as BH and therefore the experiences of SWHS' customers were relevant to their own. The feedback form included the question "How much money do you estimate you have saved in the last 12 months, using our heaters". All the respondents stated they had saved money.
2. BH said that, over the lifetime of the product, their heaters were considerably cheaper than night storage heaters and wet central heating solutions. They said that was explained to their customers in person. They said that, in addition, in running-cost comparisons based on testing, their heaters cost substantially less money to run.
3. BH said the manufacturers of the radiators they supplied had been in business since the 1960s and had sold thousands of radiators across Europe throughout the years. They said that, along with SWHS, they had sold thousands of the radiators in the UK. They said, however, that as a point of clarity specifically for BH advertising they would amend their copy to refer to 'hundreds'.
4. BH said the claim was linked to the small print which stated **Dependent on the number of radiators traded in". They said that explained the basis of how many radiators the customer traded in.
5. BH said that, along with SWHS, they had exclusive rights to sell the manufacturer's products throughout the UK and Europe.
The ASA noted the report provided by BH described three tests on the advertiser's 2 kW heater in the controlled environment of a test chamber. We understood it was possible to use the results to make extrapolations about how the heater might perform in the particular circumstances of a specific room or household, but understood that doing so would introduce variables which were not accounted for in the tests, such as air leakage. We also understood that the results could be used to extrapolate an 'outside temperature' but that that temperature would be theoretical and would relate only to the test chamber installation. We therefore considered that the report was not adequate substantiation for the general claims for the performance of the heaters in all three ads, or the more specific claims such as "fifteen minutes of energy can maintain sixty minutes of heat" in ads (a) and (b), which consumers would understand as relating to the heaters' performance in a domestic environment. Whilst we noted ad (a) also included the claim "Independent tests, both in the UK and Germany, show that to heat a large living room on a cold day with one of our 2KW German dynamic storage radiators to a steady and comfortable 71 degrees Fahrenheit will require electricity for only 15 minutes in every hour", which gave some detail as to the basis of the performance claim, we also considered it was not adequately substantiated for the same reasons.
We acknowledged that the responses to the SWHS customer survey were positive about savings, and some gave estimates as to how much they had saved on their electricity bills by having the heater installed. However, we considered those responses alone were not adequate substantiation for the savings claims and we would need to see more robust evidence in support of the claims. We reviewed the savings calculations BH had provided, but because those calculations were based on extrapolations from the findings of the report, and furthermore, because they had not provided evidence to demonstrate that the 12p per kWh tariff they had used in their calculations was a reasonable price per kWh, we concluded they had not provided adequate evidence to support their savings claims.
We concluded the performance and savings claims in the ads were misleading and had not been substantiated.
On this point, ads (a), (b) and (c) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.47 (Endorsements and Testimonials).
We noted ad (c) stated "You could save money with Bright Heating if you use: Oil, LPG, Economy7", and that other claims in the ads such as "We believe this fantastic system is the most practical and economical heating solution available in the world!" and "These storage radiators use the latest German ceramic technology which makes them stay warmer for longer" were implied comparisons with other heating systems. We noted they had not provided any comparative evidence in support of their performance or savings claims. We concluded the claims were misleading and had not been substantiated.
On this point, ads (a), (b) and (c) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.38 (Other Comparisons).
We considered that, because the claim appeared in an ad for BH, and referenced the number of customers, the implication was that BH had had thousands of customers. We noted BH had said that they and SWHS had between them sold thousands of radiators in the UK but considered that in order to substantiate the claim they would need to provide documentary evidence which related only to BH, and which related to the number of customers they had had rather than the number of radiators they had sold. We noted they had not provided substantiation either to demonstrate that they had had thousands of customers or hundreds of customers. We concluded the claim was misleading and had not been substantiated.
On this point, ad (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
We acknowledged the small print stated that the trade-in offer depended on the number of radiators traded in. However, we considered the ad should have stated how many radiators customers must trade in to qualify for £450, and also whether the £450 was a fixed amount or whether more or less money would be offered to them if they traded in more or fewer radiators. We considered that was significant information which would influence a consumer's decision to take up the offer. We concluded the ad was misleading by omission, because it did not include significant qualifications to the trade-in offer.
On this point, ad (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 (Qualification).
We understood from BH's response that the claim that they were "the only national company to offer this system" was intended to refer to BH and SWHS having exclusive rights to sell the heaters of a particular manufacturer in the UK. We noted, however, that the ad referred to BH's "German manufactured electric heating technology" in comparison with "night storage ... oil and LPG heating" rather than specifically to the heaters of a particular manufacturer. We considered that in that context, consumers would be likely to interpret the claim that BH was "the only national company to offer this system" to mean that BH was the only company in the UK which sold German manufactured electric storage heater systems of that type. We understood, however, that that was not the case. We concluded the ad was misleading on that basis. Notwithstanding that, we noted that BH and SWHS were separate companies and therefore it would be misleading to claim that one or the other company was the only company in the UK to offer the products of the particular manufacturer whose products they sold.
On this point, ad (c) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told BH to ensure they held adequate substantiation for their claims, including comparative claims. We also told them to include significant limitations and qualifications in their ads and to ensure their claims were not misleading.