Energy prices are in the headlines at the moment and with autumn just around the corner many of us are turning our thoughts to when we put the heating on.
For most of us, price is the motivating factor when deciding which energy provider to sign-up with. It is a highly competitive sector with companies advertising a range of discount offers, price freezes, lower tariffs, ‘dual fuel’ deals and other inducements in order to encourage people to switch providers. Competition provides consumers with choice but it can, occasionally, lead to companies making misleading claims by over-exaggerating the savings that are on offer.
Savings claims are not, of course, prohibited. But advertisers have to take care to provide information to consumers in an up-front and transparent fashion. In order to help energy companies stick to the rules the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has set out clear guidance in this area.
In summary, CAP sets out that:
- Ads shouldn’t exaggerate the availability or extent of benefits that customers are likely to enjoy. Implying that all consumers will make a saving when some will not is not acceptable
- Headline claims shouldn’t be contradicted by small print or qualifying text and ads should refer to conditions that might affect a customer being able to take advantage of an offer
- When making savings against a competitor's prices, comparisons should not mislead or be likely to mislead
- Companies should compare their tariff with their competitor's equivalent or most similar tariff
- Where savings customers make are dependent on the supply of more than one type of fuel it should be clarified prominently
Energy bills represent a significant financial outlay; advertising can inform us about the available options and help us get the best deal. But with the battle for customers likely to heat up following recent political criticism of the energy sector, advertising could well become a key battleground. We stand ready to respond to consumer concerns in this area so that ads don’t leave people feeling cold.
Examples of ASA rulings: