A video on YouTube opened with on-screen text stating "Vacuum Strength Test. Airflex Turbo vs Ashbys Enforcer portable carpet cleaning machines". It was followed by on-screen text providing brief technical details for the machines before showing a video of two tests being performed on both machines. After the tests, on-screen text stated "This demonstrates that under the same test conditions, the Enforcer produces 53% more airwatts and requires only 1 power lead to perform at top power. The Turbo requires 2 power leads or the vacuum system will not operate at a useable level. The Enforcer can utilise any 2nd power lead for your choice of heating system. It's the combination of heat, vacuum strength and balanced water flow that produces maximum carpet cleaning efficiency".
Cleansmart Ltd challenged whether the claim that "the Enforcer produced 53% more airwatts" than the Airflex Turbo was misleading and could be substantiated.
Ashbys Cleaning Equipment (Ashbys) explained that the machine used to measure the air flow of the two vacuum cleaners in the video was an Omega F550 Flowmeter. They said when they purchased the Omega Flowmeter they were told by sales staff on three separate occasions that it was suitable equipment for testing the air flow of vacuum cleaners and was accurate to one per cent. They said they had subsequently, after their video had appeared on YouTube, been told by Omega's technical staff that the Flowmeter was not suitable for vacuum cleaner testing as it did not give an accurate reading. They understood however that the meter gave a relative indication of vacuum air flow and said technical staff at Omega had confirmed that the F550 Flowmeter would give accurate comparable results when used in identical circumstances and provided copies of their correspondence with Omega.
Ashbys provided the calculation they had used for the basis of the claim that "the Enforcer produced 53% more airwatts" than the Airflex Turbo.
Ashbys explained that the Airflex Turbo machine in the video was a customer's machine that had been brought into Ashbys for repair; in particular, it needed the replacement of two 25ft (7.6 m) mains leads. Ashbys said they had repaired the Airflex prior to the testing and that it appeared to be in good working order and performing to normal levels. Ashbys provided a copy of a repair form dated 6 September 2012 which indicated that the Airflex had passed a water leak test, a pump pressure psi test, flow-rate test, vacuum strength test and electrical safety PAT test. They said it did not appear to be broken after they had repaired it and did not appear to be leaking air. Their engineer had made the customer aware that the machine's vacuum gasket had been slightly protruding into the vacuum motor area and he had trimmed it to ensure that it did not block the inlet of the vacuum motor. Ashbys believed this did not affect the integrity of the vacuum seal. They also pointed out that the customer had not complained to them that the machine was not working properly and the customer had written twice on a cleaning blog in October 2012 that the machine was functioning properly. They provided copies of his comments.
The ASA contacted the manufacturer of the Omega F550 Flowmeter. We were told that the scale on the Flowmeter was only accurate and would only give a meaningful reading when the machines being tested had a pound-force per square inch (psi) of 100 or over. We understood that the vacuum cleaners tested in the video did not have psi of 100 or over and therefore the readings from the Flowmeter were not accurate. We noted the calculation provided by Ashbys to show how the "53% airwatts" figure had been arrived at. However, we considered that because the readings from the Flowmeter formed the basis of the calculation and that the equipment was not suitable for testing the air flow of vacuum cleaners, the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.
We also noted that the Airflex Turbo tested in the comparison was a year-old used machine which had been taken into Ashbys for repair and we understood the complainant believed the machine was not functioning properly. Although the test report provided by Ashbys showed that the Airflex had passed tests for water leaks, pump pressure, flow-rate and vacuum strength, we had concerns that Ashbys had compared a year-old used Airflex Turbo with a brand new Enforcer and considered that was not a fair comparison since the older machine may have suffered from wear and tear and may not have been performing to its optimal level. We also had concerns that Ashbys and the complainant had different vacuum strength test results for the product and whether the Airflex used in the video was performing to its optimal level.
For these reasons, we concluded that the claim that "the Enforcer produced 53% more airwatts" than the Airflex Turbo had not been substantiated and was therefore misleading.
The claim 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), 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. and 3.35 3.35 They must objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature of those products, which may include price. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
The video must not appear again in its current form. We told Ashbys Cleaning Equipment to ensure that if they carry out similar comparisons in their future advertising, they use suitable equipment for measuring airflow.