A website for a company specialising in coolant mist control and downdraught filter bench technology, included the claim "The leading manufacturer of downdraught filter bench technology".
AirBench Ltd challenged whether the claim, "The leading manufacturer of downdraught filter bench technology" was misleading and could be substantiated.
Air Cleaning Systems Ltd stated that the claim was made in the context of specialised information regarding advanced technological features and benefits of their filter benches.
They referred to their home page, which included text that stated "Specialists in coolant mist control and downdraught filter bench technology" and links to pages headed "Downdraught Bench Technology" and "Mist Control Technology". The claim "The leading manufacturer of downdraught filter bench technology" appeared on the "Downdraught Bench Technology" page. Air Cleaning Systems felt that the technological aspects of their products were a key differentiator from their competitors' and that the reference to "leading" along with "technology" would be regarded by informed consumers as a claim that their filter bench was technologically superior to and/or more innovative than other manufacturers' benches, rather than as a claim to be "best selling" (in terms of numbers of filter benches sold). They said that their target consumers were industry specialists who would understand the technical information describing their products' superiority over those of their competitors.
They said that consumers could assess the benefits of their filter benches by viewing further technical information as well as downloading a brochure from their website. They submitted evidence to demonstrate that their filter bench was technologically superior to one of their competitors' products.
The ASA noted that before consumers landed on the page where the claim appeared, they had to first visit the home page, which included text that stated "Specialists in … downdraught filter bench technology".
We acknowledged that Air Cleaning Systems considered that the claim "The leading manufacturer of downdraught filter bench technology" would be regarded as a claim that they were the most innovative manufacturer of filter benches, rather than as a comparative claim about their market share. We also acknowledged that in their response they had provided evidence of a comparison with one of their competitor's products which, in their view, demonstrated their product's technological superiority. We noted that this evidence only referred to one of these products, rather than to all comparable products on the market, and considered that it would be insufficient to substantiate such a comparison with all of the advertiser's competitors and their products.
We noted that the "leading" claim was applied to the advertiser as a manufacturer rather than to facets of their products. We considered that, in the absence of a clear indication that the intended comparison was between the technology and degrees of innovation involved in the advertiser's product and in those of their competitors, the statement "The leading manufacturer of downdraught filter bench technology" would be regarded as a claim that the advertiser had the greatest share of the market or that their product was the best selling. We had not seen evidence to support this claim and therefore concluded that it had not been substantiated and was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) and 3.38 3.38 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an unidentifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer. The elements of the comparison must not be selected to give the marketer an unrepresentative advantage. (Other Comparisons).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Air Cleaning Systems Ltd that their future advertising must not include the claim that they are "The leading manufacturer of downdraught filter bench technology", unless they possess robust evidence to substantiate it.