Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Not upheld.
Four ads for BP Ultimate fuel, seen in April and July 2016:
a. A TV ad featured a voiceover that stated, “Engines cleaned with BP Ultimate could give you up to 21 more miles per tank”. On-screen text stated, “Based on engines tested in dirty vs clean condition; in dirty condition expected miles per tank 391 for petrol or 516 for diesel; for Ultimate Unleaded vs RON 95. Benefits may vary due to factors including vehicle condition and driving style. See bp.com/ultimate”.
b. A radio ad stated, “Over time new BP Ultimate with Active Technology removes dirt from your engine and it could give you more miles per tank … Based on engines tested in dirty vs clean condition and for Ultimate unleaded vs RON 95. Benefits may vary due to factors including vehicle condition and driving style. See bp.com/ultimate”.
c. Claims on BP’s website, www.bp.com, stated, “Engines cleaned with new BP Ultimate Unleaded with ACTIVE technology could give you up to 21 more miles per tank .. BP Ultimate Unleaded with ACTIVE technology helps: … give you more miles per tank* … reduce the risk of unplanned maintenance”. Small print linked by an asterisk stated, “Benefit achieved over time. Based on engines tested in dirty vs clean condition; in dirty condition expected miles per tank 391 (petrol) or 516 (diesel); for Ultimate Unleaded vs RON 95. Benefits may vary due to factors including vehicle condition and driving style” and “Drivers who achieve improved fuel efficiency through use of Ultimate fuels may also reduce their CO2 equivalent emissions by up to 4% for the same journey”.
d. A press ad seen in a national newspaper in April 2016 stated, “BP Ultimate could enable motorists to use less fuel for a journey so reducing CO2 equivalent emissions by up to 4%”.
Esso Petroleum Company Ltd and Shell UK Oil Products Ltd challenged whether:
1. the claims that BP Ultimate fuel could give customers "more miles per tank" and "up to 21 more miles per tank" in ads (a), (b) and (c) were misleading and could be substantiated.
Shell UK Oil Products Ltd also challenged whether:
2. the claims that BP Ultimate could enable motorists to reduce CO2 equivalent emissions by up to 4% in ads (c) and (d) were misleading and could be substantiated.
Esso Petroleum Company Ltd also challenged whether:
3. the claim that BP Ultimate fuel could help reduce the risk of unplanned maintenance in ad (c) was misleading and could be substantiated.
1. BP Oil UK Ltd (BP) stated that the claims “BP Ultimate could give you up to 21 more miles per tank” and “BP Ultimate … could give you more miles per tank” were conditional claims that applied to both their BP Ultimate Unleaded petrol and BP Ultimate diesel fuels. They said that the claims were based on the difference between the fuel consumption measurements of vehicles with a build-up of deposits in the engine and the fuel consumption measurements of those same vehicles after a period of use with BP Ultimate fuels, which contained additives designed to remove deposits.
BP said that they had selected their fleet of test vehicles to be representative of the range of vehicles currently present in the UK based on recent data. They provided an assessment of their test fleet selection method by an automotive consultancy. They also provided details of the drive cycle they used to measure vehicle fuel consumption, which had been designed to simulate real-world driving conditions. It included tests in addition to those required by the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) as they believed that this underestimated the true fuel consumption of vehicles with higher rate accelerations. In order to be confident that any measured fuel economy test benefits were due to the effect of BP Ultimate fuels, they used a control vehicle to validate the accuracy of their testing equipment and enacted control measures on each test vehicle. Vehicle fuel consumption tests were performed at least twice.
They provided a summary of the methodology used to conduct the fuel economy tests for the petrol and diesel fuels. In the petrol fuel tests, they stated that it was not necessary to create a “dirty” condition in the engine, because it was possible to visually assess the level of harmful deposits on the intake valves of used vehicles without removing the deposits. However, as it was not possible to visually assess the level of deposits on diesel fuel injectors, they used a reference fuel to create what they believed to be a representative level of deposits, based on Coordinating European Council (CEC) guidelines. When performing the initial fuel consumption test, BP said it was important that the fuel used did not change the condition of the engine. Therefore, they deliberately used petrol and diesel fuels without additives that could have a cleaning effect on the engines. They stated that the lack of additive in a fuel would not materially change the fuel consumption measured in the initial test, because the presence or lack of an additive did not create any meaningful change in the energy content of the fuel.
After the engines were run with BP Ultimate fuels to clean them, a second fuel consumption test was performed, also using the BP Ultimate fuels. BP stated that the test was designed to demonstrate the objective effect that BP Ultimate had in removing deposits from fuel injectors. Therefore, as deposits on fuel injectors were the critical factor influencing variation in fuel consumption for diesel vehicles, they would have expected results of a similar magnitude even if they had used a diesel fuel without the BP Ultimate cleaning additive for the second fuel consumption test.
For petrol vehicles, they stated that there were three main factors that could contribute to variation in fuel consumption: cleanliness of the engine; internal friction within the upper cylinder in the engine; and octane quality of the fuel. They stated that, in addition to its cleaning properties, the BP Ultimate petrol additive contained components that could reduce friction in the upper cylinder. It also had a minimum octane quality of RON 97, which they acknowledged could contribute to fuel economy when compared to the RON 95 product used in the initial fuel consumption test.
The percentage fuel economy benefit was determined using the difference between the fuel consumption measured in the initial test and the test performed after the engine had been run with BP Ultimate fuel. This was applied to the typical range per tank for UK petrol and diesel vehicles to obtain the “miles per tank” figure. The ranges were based on what could be achieved by a good driver using a defensive driving style with a vehicle’s engine in a dirty condition, for a selection of vehicles that BP believed were representative of those available in the UK. They said that this method resulted in a conservative estimate for average vehicle range. Calculated using this methodology, the second-best performing petrol vehicle in the test fleet achieved 21 more miles per tank. This vehicle was representative of approximately 16% of petrol vehicles currently present in the UK. For the diesel tests, a group of vehicles representing 36% of UK diesel vehicles achieved an average increase of 24 miles per tank. As a result, BP believed that they had demonstrated that the “up to” claim could be achieved by at least 10% of customers. They stated that the fuel economy test results were statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. They believed that the dossier of evidence they had provided constituted robust evidence to support the claims. BP stated that the claims that BP Ultimate fuels could give drivers “more miles per tank” and “up to 21 more miles per tank” did not refer to a comparison between BP Ultimate fuels and any specific competitor fuels. They said that, in previous marketing campaigns, they had compared BP Ultimate to fuels that did not prevent or minimise a build-up of harmful deposits in engines, which they had referred to as “ordinary fuels”.
The claims in the current campaign derived from a comparison between engines in a dirty condition and after a period of use with BP Ultimate fuels. They had sought to make the basis of the comparison for both products clear through the claims themselves, the disclaimer wording, and the additional details available on their website. They stated that they had not identified a particular competitor’s fuel as the cause of the build-up resulting in the dirty condition of the engines tested. In order to measure the effect of BP Ultimate, they had first had to measure the fuel consumption of the vehicles in their initial condition. For the petrol tests, they initially measured the fuel consumption of the engine run on a RON 95 fuel. They provided data showing that over 96% of petrol sold in the UK had an octane quality of RON 95. For that reason, they believed that the initial test fuel was representative of petrol fuels used by motorists in the UK.
They said that there was only one grade of diesel fuel sold in the UK. The fuel used in the initial fuel consumption tests for the diesel vehicles met the appropriate British Standard, and they therefore believed that it was representative of the diesel fuels used by British consumers. In relation to the diesel fuel, BP did not believe that the claims were comparative, but rather communicated that BP Ultimate diesel could have a cleaning effect on engines, which could result in drivers achieving more miles per tank.
In relation to the petrol fuel, they acknowledged that there was an element of comparison solely due to the use of a RON 95 fuel for the initial fuel consumption tests, which meant that some of the reduction in fuel consumption could have been due to the higher octane quality of the RON 97 BP Ultimate Unleaded petrol. However, as they did not make a comparison with any particular competitor’s RON 95 fuel, they did not believe that this element of comparison was misleading.
Clearcast stated that they had sent the script and substantiating documents to their consultant, who was satisfied that they supported the claims, though he pointed out that BP had carried out their own in-house tests. Clearcast received additional information about BP’s in-house test facilities and quality standards and considered that they were of sufficient quality to justify the claims.
Radiocentre said that they had seen evidence that vehicles in a dirty condition could expect to gain up to 21 miles per tank through the use of BP Ultimate fuels. They felt that the qualification stating “Based on engines tested in a dirty vs clean condition and for Ultimate Unleaded vs RON 95. Benefits may vary due to factors including vehicle condition and driving style” was sufficient to make the basis of the comparison clear.
2. BP stated that the claim that BP Ultimate could enable motorists to reduce CO2 equivalent emissions by up to 4% was used in conjunction with the claim that BP Ultimate could give consumers up to 21 more miles per tank. They said that it was another way of describing a fuel economy benefit. BP stated that the industry standard method for the measurement of fuel consumption of vehicles consisted of the measurement of vehicle exhaust emission of CO2 and other carbon-containing gases. Therefore, a given change in fuel consumption could reasonably be assumed to result in an equivalent change in CO2 emissions. As the average fuel economy benefit seen in the BP vehicle test fleet was just over 4%, as demonstrated by their evidence in support of the claims contested in point 1, BP believed that the claim that BP Ultimate could enable drivers to reduce their CO2 equivalent emissions by up to 4% had been substantiated and was not misleading.
3. BP provided evidence which they said demonstrated that deposit build-up could cause severe driveability issues in both diesel and petrol vehicles, to the extent that they might require unplanned maintenance. They also provided test result summaries which they said showed that both BP Ultimate diesel and BP Ultimate Unleaded petrol could restore engine power to engines in a dirty state through the removal of deposits. Based on this evidence, they believed that the claim that BP Ultimate fuels could help to reduce the risk of unplanned maintenance had been substantiated and was not misleading.
1. Not upheld
The ASA considered how consumers would be likely to understand the claims “Engines cleaned with BP Ultimate could give you up to 21 more miles per tank” and “Over time new BP Ultimate with Active Technology removes dirt from your engine and it could give you more miles per tank” in the context of the ads. Qualification for the claim in the TV and radio ads stated “Based on engines tested in dirty vs clean condition; in dirty condition expected miles per tank 391 for petrol or 516 for diesel; for Ultimate Unleaded vs RON 95”. The website stated, “Based on engines tested in dirty vs clean condition; in dirty condition expected miles per tank 391 (petrol) or 516 (diesel); for Ultimate Unleaded vs RON 95”. The qualifications contained information on comparisons for different engine conditions and for two different types of petrol, before referring to miles per tank figures for both petrol and diesel, and a comparative statement about types of petrol (“Ultimate Unleaded vs. RON 95), with no equivalent statement for diesel.
We considered that the overall impression given by the headline claim was that consumers could gain up to 21 more miles per tank, in any petrol or diesel vehicle, when using BP Ultimate compared to the standard petrol and diesel fuels available on the market. We did not think that consumers would understand the comparison to include more expensive premium petrols, which contained additives resulting in performance benefits. That said, we considered that the wording of the qualifications was likely to be confusing to consumers, and would not necessarily allow them to understand the specific basis for the claim.
We understood that BP Ultimate was developed with the additional purpose of removing dirt deposits from engines. Fuels without this capability could be expected to contribute to build-up in the course of use, which would impact on the fuel consumption of the engine, regardless of any other properties that might contribute to variance in fuel consumption. In order to get an initial fuel consumption reading, against which to compare the fuel consumption measurement when using BP Ultimate fuel, BP had to run the test vehicles in a dirty state. For the purposes of comparing fuel economy, we did not consider it was possible to extricate the engine-cleaning capability of the advertised BP fuels from their overall performance.
We assessed the structure of BP’s fuel consumption tests. In the case of petrol, the vehicle was not run with a “dirty-up” fuel as part of the test, because it already had what BP considered to be an average level of deposits. The engine was then run with a test fuel (RON 95 unleaded), and then BP Ultimate petrol, and the fuel economy results for each compared.
In the diesel tests, the engine was first run with a CEC reference fuel (designed for the DW10B standard industry test for diesel injector fouling) to create deposits. It was then run with a test fuel (a diesel fuel meeting the BS EN 590 standard), followed by BP Ultimate diesel, and the fuel economy results were compared. We noted that the complainants were concerned that the “dirty” conditions of the engines in which the fuel economy readings were initially taken were not representative of the state of a typical engine in the UK market. In particular, they noted that the dirty-up fuel used for the diesel tests was a reference fuel intended for testing purposes only and was not available to consumers on the UK market.
We considered that BP needed to demonstrate that each of the fuels used (the fuel(s) used in the petrol engines prior to testing, the petrol test fuel, the CEC diesel “dirty-up” fuel, and the diesel test fuel) were representative of those which were available on the market in terms of their fuel economy performance or level of deposits created, as appropriate.
Where advertisers made “up to” savings claims, CAP and the ASA generally expected that they should be able to demonstrate that a significant proportion of consumers would be able to attain the maximum saving claimed. We therefore considered that the claim that BP Ultimate fuels could give drivers up to 21 more miles per tank should be substantiated by evidence showing that a significant proportion of diesel and petrol vehicles in the UK could achieve this fuel economy benefit when using BP Ultimate fuels as compared to standard (non-premium) fuels. We assessed the evidence provided by BP and took expert advice.
For the petrol vehicles, BP had used a RON 95 specification fuel as the test fuel. They believed that this was representative of the petrol fuels available in the UK because over 96% of petrol sold in the UK was RON 95. They also stated that the deposits created did not exceed the range of deposits created by the “low-deposit” reference fuel provided for the CEC test measuring deposit build-up. We understood that finished fuels must meet relevant standards, BS EN 228 for petrol and BS EN 590 for diesel fuels. While there could be variability in blending, the specifications applying to fuels were such that the range of options open to blenders were limited. Fuel quality was monitored by the Department for Transport, and in addition companies and test houses carried out surveys to understand the quality of fuels on the market from different outlets. BP’s own fuel surveys, referred to in the evidence, were generally understood to be reliable sources of data. We understood that if the base fuels met the relevant standards, they were unlikely to differ significantly from the market in general. We therefore considered that the petrol test fuel was likely to be representative of UK consumer experience in terms of its fuel economy performance and deposit formation. Given the prevalence of RON 95 fuels in the market, we understood it was highly likely that they had used RON 95 grade petrol meeting BS EN 228 to operate the vehicles prior to testing. Visual ratings of the inlet valves indicated that the level of deposit on the valves at the beginning of the test was similar to those found in a field study undertaken on behalf of BP by an independent testing centre. This indicated that the level of deposits in the dirty test engines was typical of what might be found in the field.
We considered that we had seen sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the initial level of deposits and the fuel used in the petrol test were reflective of the experience of most UK drivers.
To “dirty-up” the diesel engines, BP had used the reference fuel provided by the CEC for the DW10B standard industry test for diesel injector fouling (RF79 fuel plus additives that could promote fouling). We understood that this fuel was not available on the market to consumers. However, we understood that the formulation of reference fuels was always such as to reflect practice in the market place, as otherwise the results of tests would not necessarily be applicable to the vehicle parc (the collective term for all registered vehicles within a defined geographic area) and therefore would be of little value in practice. Reference fuels were only available to test laboratories because of the high cost of blending to exceptionally close tolerances, verification of results in test engines for each batch, and storage. We understood that the fact that such fuels were not available to the public did not mean that they were atypical in any way in terms of their properties.
We considered that BP had substantiated that the “dirty-up” fuel and test fuel used in the diesel tests were representative of UK experience.
The complainants had questioned whether BP’s fuel consumption test methodology was robustly designed. Fuel consumption was carried out on a chassis dynamometer and a mileage accumulation dynamometer was used during the mileage accumulation, which we understood offered more repeatable test conditions and resulted in greater credibility. BP had taken a number of precautions to avoid interference by factors other than the fuel used during testing. These precautions included using separate sets of wheels/tyres for fuel consumption from those used for mileage accumulation, and coast-down tests to verify the consistency of each vehicle and eliminate non-fuel effects such as changes within the vehicle braking system or the transmissions.
We considered the test procedures used by BP were robust and appropriate for the factors being measured.
The complainants had questioned whether the test fleet was appropriate and representative of the UK vehicle parc. Six vehicles were selected for the petrol tests and six for the diesel tests. We understood that the selection was made according to the engine technology each vehicle used and the number of vehicles using that technology in the vehicle parc in the UK. Changes in emissions legislation tended to create a need for changes in the engine technology used to meet the limits. Since the chemistry and physics applied similarly to all engine and vehicle manufacturers there was a significant commonality in the technologies which were used by different vehicle manufacturers. This was enhanced by the fact that there were a limited number of companies who supplied key sensitive components, for example, fuel injectors.
We noted that the test fleet selection method had been verified by an industrial expert body, which found that the brands chosen had common engine variables and added further credibility. We considered that BP had used a robust method in selecting the 12 vehicles in the test fleet and that they were likely to be representative of the UK vehicle parc as a whole at the time the tests were carried out.
In order to arrive at the claim “21 more miles per tank”, BP had calculated their “typical” miles per tank for petrol and diesel engines based on the manufacturers’ average fuel consumption measurements for a range of cars available in the UK. The data had been verified and published by the US Environmental Protection Agency. BP considered that the US-verified data provided a more conservative estimate of vehicle range than similar figures published in Europe, because the US test cycle was based on real-world driving as opposed to the stylised urban and extra-urban emissions based driving cycle used in European tests. However, they considered that the US-published ranges were still likely to overestimate average consumer use, because they were tested in a clean state. BP had compensated for this by reducing the figures by 4%, because this was the average deterioration in vehicle range measured in their diesel test fleet between the beginning and end of the deposit accumulation phase. The same reduction was applied to the figures for the petrol fleet for the sake of consistency.
We considered whether this data was representative of the experience of UK consumers. We noted that BP had chosen to use data that gave a lower estimate than that given by European figures and had taken measures to further reduce the figures to account for engine deposits. While the variety of vehicle makes included did not feature all manufacturers available on the UK market, it featured a large range. We understood that, of the legislated test procedures available at the time, the US Federal method was the most representative of on-road driving. Therefore, using the fuel consumption data gathered from the US testing was likely to be the most reliable and representative source available to BP. In that context, the 4% reduction applied to the figures served only to make the claim more conservative than it might justifiably have been.
We understood that the method used by BP to calculate the increase in range was reasonable and likely to be realistic. A saving of 21 more miles per tank was achieved by a petrol vehicle that was representative of 16% of UK petrol vehicles, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) data. The range of fuel economy measurements for all six petrol vehicles tested was between 11 and 29 miles. At the same time, a group of vehicles representing 36% of UK diesel vehicles according to SMMT data achieved an average increase of 24 miles per tank. While the savings for all six vehicles tested ranged from 0.5 to 37 miles, the majority had savings of at least 19 miles. Based on this method of selection, we considered that “up to 21 more miles per tank” could be achievable for a significant proportion of UK consumers (taking into account both petrol and diesel vehicles). Conclusion
The overall impression given by the claims “Engines cleaned with new BP Ultimate Unleaded with ACTIVE technology could give you up to 21 more miles per tank” and “could give you more miles per tank” was that customers could gain up to 21 more miles per tank, in any petrol or diesel vehicle, when using BP Ultimate compared to the standard petrol and diesel fuels available on the market. Taking into account the nature of the fuels used, the test procedure, test fleet selection and range calculation methodology, we considered that we had seen sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the saving was achievable by a significant proportion of UK consumers. We concluded that ads (a), (b) and (c) were not misleading on that point.
On that point ads (a), (b), and (c) were investigated under BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation), 3.12 (Exaggeration), and 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors); and CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.11 (Exaggeration), and 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors), but were not found in breach.
2. Not upheld
We understood that CO2 emissions and fuel consumption were directly and essentially proportionally linked. It was therefore reasonable to assume that if a reduction in consumption of 4% was demonstrated then there would be a reduction in CO2 emissions of around 4%. The claim that BP Ultimate fuels could enable motorists to reduce CO2 equivalent emissions by up to 4% was a comparative claim based on the same evidence provided in support of point 1.
As the average fuel consumption reduction according to that data was 4.5% for the petrol-engine test vehicles and 4.4% for the diesel-engine test vehicles, we considered BP was justified in making the claim that customers could achieve a reduction of 4% in CO2 over the same journey. We concluded that ads (c) and (d) did not breach the Code on this point.
On this point we investigated ads (c) and (d) under BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation), 3.12 (Exaggeration), and 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors); and CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.11 (Exaggeration), and 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors) but did not find them in breach.
3. Not upheld
We assessed the internal reports and literature reviews submitted by BP as evidence of the problems that could be caused by deposits in petrol and diesel engines. We noted that in diesel engines, nozzle coking could result in a range of issues including reduced engine power, dilution of the lubricating oil and wear on engine components. In petrol engines, fuel injector deposits could cause poor transient response, unstable idle and misfire, among other problems. These problems had the potential to cause vehicle breakdown, and therefore could cause motorists to seek unplanned maintenance. As we had seen evidence that BP Ultimate fuels could remove dirt deposits from engines, we considered that the claim that BP Ultimate fuel could help reduce the risk of unplanned maintenance had been substantiated and was not misleading.
On this point, we investigated ad (c) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation) but did not find it in breach.
No further action required.