Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A website for AGA, www.agaliving.com, a retailer of heat-storage cookers, seen on 28 June 2023, included a webpage for the AGA eR7 Series. Text stated “The AGA eR7 Series range offers the lowest running costs for any heat-storage cast-iron range cooker, as this cooker is fully programmable for the most efficient operation.”
Everhot Ltd challenged whether the claim “the lowest running costs for any heat-storage cast-iron range cooker” was:
1. misleading and could be substantiated; and
1. & 2. AGA Rangemaster Ltd t/a AGA said all AGA products were heat-storage appliances with heat store ovens. AGA acknowledged that their main competitor was Everhot, but believed that their products were not directly comparable. They explained that unlike other AGA models, the electric range of ovens (the eR range) was designed differently, which allowed them to be switched off when not in use. The eR7 heated up quickly, and therefore did not require the cooker to be left on all the time. As such, AGA believed the operation of the eR range of cookers differed from Everhot’s products which were recommended to remain on.
Whilst both were described as cast-iron heat-storage ovens, AGA said they extensively used cast-iron in their ovens and it featured in the majority of the parts of their appliances of which approximately 62% by weight was cast-iron, but Everhot products only used cast-iron on the doors and hotplates, of which approximately 11% by weight was cast-iron.
AGA explained that they had tested Everhot models, but did not publish information about the running cost of those products because it was commercially sensitive information. However, they provided us with the power consumption of different Everhot products when in “ECO” mode, as was available on the Everhot website.
Whilst they re-iterated that the Everhot products were not directly comparable to the AGA eR7 range, they highlighted that the most comparable Everhot products were the Everhot 100+ and 110 because of their dimensions, and because the eR7 and Everhot 100+ and 110 models similarly had three ovens, a hot plate and a simmer plate. The power consumption data for those Everhot appliances was 90 kilowatt per hour (kWh) when “ECO” mode was applied overnight, and based on that, AGA estimated that they would consume more power when in use. They provided data for the eR7 that showed the different functions of the cooker and the amount of energy used and the cost to run. They said in the event that an AGA eR7 was left on all week, the roasting oven would use approximately 82 kWH, the baking oven would use 50 kWh, and the simmering oven would use 28 kWh, which they believed demonstrated that the eR7 range required less energy than both the Everhot 100+ and 110.
Therefore, because their products could be turned off when not in use, AGA believed they offered consumers the chance to achieve the lowest running costs.
Lastly, they confirmed that they had not received complaints from consumers directly since changing the website to provide a breakdown of the running costs of all of their AGA products.
The ad stated “the AGA eR7 offers the lowest running costs for any heat-storage cast-iron range cooker”. The ASA understood that the purpose of heat-storage range cookers differed from a standard oven, and that they were designed to store and distribute heat in a way so that they could be left on all the time. We considered that consumers would be aware of that feature and interpret “heat-storage cast-iron range cooker” to mean a range cooker, that used cast-iron in its design, and did not have to be turned off when not in use. We also considered consumers would interpret “lowest running costs” as a comparative claim; namely, that the eR7 used the least amount of energy, and therefore had the lowest associated running costs, of all other heat-storage cast-iron range cookers. We further noted that the claim was qualified by the text “as this cooker is fully programmable for the most efficient option”. We considered that, within the context of the ad, it was not clear what “fully programmable” meant, and that it could have been understood to refer to a number of programmable options, such as the different cooking functions offered by the oven, the ability to adjust the temperature, or that it was possible to turn the range cooker off when not in use. Because of that, we considered consumers would not understand the basis of the “lowest running cost” claim. In the absence of further qualifying information, consumers would expect the claim to refer to the cost of running the different functions of the cooker, and not a reference to the savings made over time.
We first assessed whether the AGA eR7 was comparable with Everhot cookers in the context of the claim. We understood that both AGA and Everhot cookers used a mixture of cast-iron and steel in their designs. In both models, the hotplates and doors were made from cast-iron; however, in the AGA eR7 model, the ovens were also made from cast-iron, whereas the ovens in Everhot cookers were made from steel. Because we considered that consumers would not expect a cast-iron range cooker to be comprised entirely of cast-iron, we considered that they were sufficiently similar to be compared. We also understood that both were heat-storage cookers, since they used radiant heat stored in the cooker to heat and cook food. We therefore considered that they would both be understood as cast-iron heat-storage range cookers by consumers and that their running costs could be compared.
We next assessed the running cost data that had been provided by AGA for the eR7 in comparison with the data Everhot had provided for their 110i model. Everhot provided the energy use of the 110i at its cooking temperature across all functions for seven days, as well as the energy use for seven days with the “ECO” setting applied, which allowed the cooker to turn off for a period overnight before returning to cooking temperature during the day. Everhot did not provide the running cost data for every cooking feature of the 110i model, but we were provided with the energy use for the hotplate and the top oven, which was the hottest oven. We therefore compared the data for the hottest ovens at their respective cooking temperatures and the hotplates at their respective cooking temperatures. We also compared the total energy use for the range cookers with all hotplates and ovens on and for both cookers in ECO mode over seven days. The running cost data was based on the assumption that electricity cost 30 pence per kWh. We understood that the cost of electricity per kW fluctuated over time and that the exact running cost of both appliances could differ from the data supplied to us. However, because the running cost data for both appliances were based on the same cost of electricity, we considered that they were comparable.The data showed that having only the hot plate on full power on the AGA eR7 used 0.600 kWh, and that this would cost 18p per hour to run. In comparison, the data for the Everhot 110i model showed that the hot plate and simmer plate being on full power used 0.220 kWh and that would cost 6.6p per hour to run. Even though the Everhot data also included the use of the simmering plate, we understood that the Everhot 110i model used less energy than the AGA eR7, and therefore considered that the Everhot model was more efficient in its energy use for the hotplate function. The data also showed that the hottest oven of the AGA eR7 used 0.450 kWh, which cost 13.5p per hour to run. The equivalent function for the Everhot 110i model used 0.410 kWh and cost 12.3p per hour to run. Again, we understood from the data that the Everhot was more efficient in its energy use for the hottest oven function. Because of that, we did not consider that the data demonstrated the AGA eR7 had the lowest running costs of any cast-iron heat-storage range cooker.
We next evaluated the running costs for both range cookers with all oven and hotplates having been left on continuously for seven days. The data showed that the AGA eR7 used 252 kWh, whereas the Everhot 110i model used 116.41 kWh. Whilst we acknowledged that was not necessarily reflective of typical consumer use, and that it was unlikely the hot plates would be left on continuously for seven days, we considered it was indicative of the running costs across all functions of the two cookers. Because the data showed that the Everhot model used significantly less energy over a seven-day period than the AGA eR7, we considered that demonstrated the AGA eR7 was the less energy efficient appliance based on continuous use of all functions.
We then assessed the running costs for both range cookers in their respective ECO modes over a seven-day period. Both the AGA eR7 and the Everhot 110i had a mode which enabled the temperature to be automatically lowered overnight before returning to cooking temperature the following day. The data provided by AGA showed how much energy the eR7 used when in its ECO mode continuously for seven days. The data showed that per hour, the eR7 used 0.347 kWh per hour and that the Everhot 110i model used 0.531kWh per hour. As such, we understood that the eR7 used less energy when in ECO mode than the Everhot 110i model. However, since that was an “eco” mode designed to be used when the cooker was not being used to cook, it did not in itself demonstrate it would have the lowest running costs as it would be used by consumers.
We acknowledged AGA’s argument that, in comparison to other AGA products, the eR7 was designed to be switched off when not in use or could be put in ECO mode which used less energy, and so would allow consumers to make greater savings over time. However, we were not provided with the daily running costs for a typical day that showed usage of the AGA eR7 with all functions on and at their cooking temperatures during the day and ECO mode at night, in comparison with the Everhot 110i model over the same period. As such, we could not determine the extent to which the ECO mode, or being switched on and off, impacted the typical energy use of the AGA eR7 and whether that would sufficiently reduce the running costs of the cooker to substantiate that the eR7 model had the lowest running costs of any cast-iron range cooker. In any case, we considered consumers would not have expected the lowest running costs claim to refer to savings accrued over time by using an ECO mode function or by switching it off when not in use. Rather that it referred to the actual running cost of the different functions of the range cooker. Because the Everhot was more energy efficient when in use, we considered that the data supplied by AGA was not sufficient to substantiate the claim.
Furthermore, we noted that AGA did not provide us with the running costs for any other cast-iron heat-storage range cookers. Because the claim was likely to be understood by consumers as a comparison with all other cast-iron ranges, and we only received evidence related to two models from Everhot, we considered that the data supplied was not sufficient to substantiate the claim.
For those reasons, we considered the data was not sufficient to substantiate that the AGA eR7 had the lowest running costs of any heat-storage cast-iron range cooker, and concluded the ad was misleading.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
The CAP Code required that comparisons with identifiable competitors must be verifiable. That meant that an ad which featured a comparison with an identifiable competitor or competitors needed to include, or direct its audience to, sufficient information to allow them to understand the comparison, and be able to check the claims were accurate, or ask someone suitably qualified to do so.
We considered what would constitute sufficient information to enable consumers or competitors to verify the ad’s comparative claim “the AGA eR7 offers the lowest running costs for any heat-storage cast-iron range cooker”. We considered that for the claim to be verifiable, the running costs of the eR7 and all competitor heat-storage cast-iron range cookers would need to be made available in an accessible format. We also considered information would be required about the methodology used to calculate these running costs, including information about the settings the cookers were run on for the individual functions such as the hotplate and hottest oven, along with the cost per hour and the cost per week to run the various features of these cookers.
The ad did not include any information or data to compare the running costs with other heat-storage cast-iron range cookers, neither did it direct them to where that could be obtained. As such, the ad did not allow consumers or competitors to verify the comparison and we concluded the ad breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.35 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told AGA Rangemaster Ltd t/a AGA not to claim the eR7 had the lowest running costs of any heat-storage cast-iron range cooker in the absence of adequate substantiation. We also told them to ensure that ads provided sufficient information to enable consumers and competitors to verify comparisons with identifiable competitors or adequately signposted the audience to such information.