A website, www.ecosolutions.co.uk, promoted eco paint strippers, coating removers and cleaners. Text on the home page stated "Innovative solutions" and "World-leading technology".
The complainant challenged whether the claim "World-leading technology" was misleading and could be substantiated.
Eco Solutions stated that in 1995 they collaborated with the Bristol Colloid Centre at the Bristol University School of Chemistry to research and develop a new technology for paint strippers and coatings removers, which was up to 80% water and contained no toxic materials. They said that technology was patented in 1998 and granted throughout Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. They also stated that the technology was available in other countries such as Russia and China, and manufactured in the USA and Canada under a Technology Transfer Licence Agreement.
Eco Solutions also provided a number of documents including a copy of the Bristol Colloid Centre's Annual Review from 2007/2008 which included a case study of the work conducted in collaboration with Eco Solutions. They highlighted that the case study included the statement "Eco Solutions is a world leading technology and innovations driven company that has developed internationally patented leading-edge solvent-free coatings removers and associated products".
They highlighted that the technology had been granted "Millennium Award" status by the United Kingdom Design Council in 1999, and provided documents regarding how the technology had been used by British Telecom to remove old cables, covered with lead-based paint, from their exchanges while ensuring hazardous particles were not released into the atmosphere.
Eco Solutions explained that without exception, all other paint strippers available on the market included hazardous toxic materials. They provided some information regarding two specific products marketed as "eco" paint strippers by other companies and highlighted that neither owned any intellectual property with regards to the products and that, unlike Eco Solutions' products, these products were not pH neutral or solvent free. They stated that the main active ingredient in both was benzyl alcohol, which they explained was highly volatile and could cause various adverse affects such as headaches, nausea, vomiting and dizziness, and that both had to be treated as hazardous waste when disposed of. They also provided documentation which showed their Canadian licensee had been awarded an "EcoLogo", which they stated had not been awarded to any other paint stripper in Canada because they contained toxic ingredients.
In addition, Eco Solutions stated that they manufactured the only paint stripper which had CE certification under the Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC, meaning that the product was safe enough to be used by children under 14 years of age and could be included in products such as children's paint sets.
The ASA noted that the claim "World-leading technology" appeared alongside the claim "Innovative solutions" and considered that in the context of the ad consumers would understand the claim to refer to the inventive nature of the product, rather than as a comparative claim regarding Eco Solutions' market share.
We understood that the claim "world leading technology" related to technology that Eco Solutions had developed with scientists from the Bristol Colloid Centre at Bristol University, which was utilised in both their domestic and industrial paint stripper and coating remover products, which were up to 80% water, pH neutral and contained no toxic substances. We noted the technology had been patented in 1998 in a number of different countries, and was distributed across the globe. We also understood that the product had been given "Millennium Products" status in 1999 which had been an initiative to find examples of the best in British design, creativity and innovation. We noted the claims which had appeared in the case study of the Colloid Centre's Annual Review and although we accepted that the authors had a vested interest in the company and their products being presented in a positive light, we considered it was notable that ten years after the patent had been granted the collaboration between Eco Solutions was still being promoted and the technology being presented as innovative and "world-leading". We also noted the additional information Eco Solutions had provided regarding their competitors' products and the fact that they included toxic substances. Because we considered that most consumers would understand the claim "World-leading technology" in the context of the website to relate to the innovative nature of the product, and Eco Solutions had provided evidence to substantiate that interpretation of the claim, we concluded that it was not in breach of the Code.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 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), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.