ASA Ruling on Georgia-Pacific GB Ltd
Georgia-Pacific GB Ltd
c/o Baker Mackenzie LLP
100 New Bridge Street
30 January 2013
Internet (sales promotion), Packaging
Number of complaints:
Banana Kick Ltd
Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
Promotional packaging and the website www.nouvellerecycling.co.uk included a prize promotion to win VW campervans and mountain bikes with Nouvelle Soft toilet tissue. Both included cartoon images of a classic 1970s-style split screen campervan, along with text that stated "Camper van shown for illustration purposes only. Please refer to offer Terms and Conditions". The promotional packaging stated "5 VOLKSWAGEN CAMPER VANS TO BE WON!". The website also provided a hyperlink to the terms and conditions and, at the bottom of the page, an image of a modern campervan, which appeared above text that stated "Volkswagen California Beach Camper Van Seating up to seven people, and sleeping four in comfort overnight, the Volkswagen California Beach is the perfect vehicle for exploring in comfort and style".
The online promotion was headlined "WIN GENUINELY GREEN PRIZES WITH NOUVELLE SOFT" and included text that stated "We're offering you two chances to win one of our 5 brand new Volkswagen Camper Vans, all of which have an engine meeting stringent Euro V emission levels …".
1. The complainants challenged whether the promotion misleadingly implied the prize on offer was a 1970s-style campervan.
2. One of the complainants also challenged whether the claim "GENUINELY GREEN PRIZES" was misleading and could be substantiated.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Georgia-Pacific GB Ltd (Georgia-Pacific) said it was not prohibited to use terms such as "for illustrative purposes", or similar, in advertising. They gave the examples of serving suggestions on food packaging that might in fact contain only one of the items shown and of images of show homes, in which the furniture depicted might not be included. They said the text "Camper van shown for illustration purposes only. Please refer to offer Terms and Conditions" was clearly presented in a prominent position very close to the illustration, rather than being confined to the terms and conditions of the promotion. They believed the qualifying text was not contradictory when the ads were considered in their entirety; for example, the online promotion clearly referred to chances to win "brand new Volkswagen Camper Vans" and therefore could be understood only as relating to new models. Georgia-Pacific said there was no indication in the wording that old-style models were being offered.
2. Georgia-Pacific said the ad made clear reference to the standard, Euro V emission levels, they had met in order to make the claim and that the prize was from the VW 'bluemotion' range, which represented the most fuel efficient model of its line. Bluemotion vehicles had revised engine mapping, diesel particulate filters and oxidising catalytic converters to help fuel consumption and to lower nitrogen oxide levels as well as longer gear ratios than on standard TDI engine gear boxes and reduced rolling resistance, which had the effect of producing better fuel consumption.
They believed the claim was compliant with Defra's (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) guidance on 'green' claims, which stated "check the claim reflects an additional benefit to the environment beyond what is already happening in the current market, and goes over and above what is required by legislation". They provided details of why they considered the claim met that requirement, which included the vehicle including energy saving solutions to create instant fuel savings, and lower carbon dioxide emissions, and therefore better fuel economy. Georgia-Pacific said carbon dioxide emissions could be up to 205 g/km without the 'bluemotion' technology but that was cut to 184 g/km for the prize vehicle. They said the prize was the top performing vehicle in each category of classification, in terms of fuel economy and emissions. The advertiser submitted explanations of how lower emissions and fuel bills were achieved with the technology, as well as of comparative economies and performance for all VW vehicles within the range and the engine specifications for each model. They believed it was clear the claim related to emission levels. However, they said they intended to remove it from the promotional website and packs.
The ASA acknowledged the ads did not explicitly state that old-style vehicles were available and that the website included references to "brand new" camper vans. We considered, however, that text, and the text "5 VOLKSWAGEN CAMPER VANS TO BE WON!" on the promotional packaging, in conjunction with the images of the old-style model, was likely to be understood to mean the prize on offer was a 1970s-style Volkswagen campervan, which we understood were sought after vehicles. We also acknowledged the promotional packaging and website included text close to the first image of the 1970s-style campervan, which stated that it was for "illustration purposes only" but noted that while qualifying text could be used to clarify claims, it could not contradict. We considered the text "Camper van shown for illustration purposes only. Please refer to offer Terms and Conditions" contradicted the overall impression that the prize was a 1970s-style campervan. We therefore concluded that the promotion was misleading.
On this point, the promotion breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 (Qualification).
We acknowledged that Georgia-Pacific were willing to amend their advertising. We noted, however, the evidence submitted related only to California models of Volkswagen campervans. We also noted the ad did not make clear that the claim was intended as a comparison with other California campervans and therefore considered it would be interpreted as a general 'green' claim. We acknowledged the ad included the text "5 brand new Volkswagen Camper Vans, all of which have an engine meeting stringent Euro V emission levels …", which we considered consumers would understand was intended to qualify the headline claim. We considered, however, because it was not clear it was intended as a comparison, the claim "GENUINELY GREEN" would nevertheless be understood to mean the prize would cause no environmental damage taking account of the full life cycle of the product from manufacture to disposal, rather than that it had lower emissions than the comparator vehicles. For those reasons, we considered the claim had not been substantiated and therefore concluded that it breached the Code.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.9 (Qualification) and 11.1 and 11.3 (Environmental claims).
The promotion must not appear again in its current form. We told Georgia-Pacific to ensure that future qualifying text did not contradict claims, including visual claims. We also told them to ensure they were in a position to substantiate future environmental claims, which must also be clearly qualified.