Two issues were investigated of which one was Not Upheld and one was Upheld.
A TV ad and claims on a website for British Gas Services Ltd.
a. The voice-over for the TV ad stated "Right now you can get 40% off the cost of a new boiler when we install it. That's a saving of up to £400" and featured a boiler with a label that stated "SAVE 40% (UP TO £400 OFF)".
b. On 9 November 2011 the website stated "Save 40% (up to £400) on any of our boiler models".
1. One complainant, who believed that the majority of boilers would cost more than £1,000 and that the discount was capped at £400, challenged whether the claim "40% off" in ad (a) was misleading.
2. Two complainants, who were told their "Simplicity" quote for a new boiler was not included in the offer, challenged whether ad (b) was misleading, because it did not make clear that restrictions applied.
1. British Gas Services Ltd (British Gas) said they sold 81 different boilers that ranged in price from £251.61 to £5,318.71, 31 models of which were priced below £1,000. They said they reviewed the sales figures from January 2011 to 30 September 2011 to determine whether an acceptable proportion of boilers would be sold at the maximum offered discount and submitted a spreadsheet which showed that, during that period, the 31 models priced under £1,000 accounted for 76.76% of all of their domestic boiler sales. They said, under the offer, each of these sales would have qualified for the maximum discount of 40%. They said they anticipated that they would comfortably clear the 10% threshold, as specified in the Help Note on Savings Claims, provided by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), and believed that the claim "40% off" in ad (a) was not misleading.
Clearcast said British Gas provided them with information that demonstrated that consumers could get 40% off the cost of a new boiler, and that at least 10% of customers could achieve a saving of £400.
2. British Gas said one of the boiler offers they promoted was called the "Simplicity" offer, which related to three of their low cost boilers that cost less than £1,000 at full price, and that customers who were offered this had already received a more generous discount than the 40% offer. They also said their heating sales agents were able to quote the "Simplicity" offer to customers who met certain criteria and were informed that this was not available in conjunction with the "40%/£400 off" offer. They said their three low cost boilers were not exclusively tied to the "Simplicity" offer and that, if they were purchased at full price, the "40%/£400 off" offer would have been available. They submitted two briefing documents relating to the "Simplicity" offer and the "40%/£400 off" offer, which were provided to their sales agents, and said complainants who were quoted the "Simplicity" offer would have been advised by their sales agents that they were being sold a boiler at a reduced offer price that could not be used in conjunction with any other British Gas Boiler offers. They believed that, because the offer page on the website included text that stated "Cannot be used in conjunction with any other British Gas Boiler offer" the ad was not misleading.
1. Not upheld
The ASA considered that most viewers would understand from the voice-over "Right now you can get 40% off the cost of a new boiler when we install it. That's a saving of up to £400..." and the text "SAVE 40% (UP TO £400 OFF)" that they could get a 40% discount on a new boiler, when British Gas installed it, and that the discount was capped at a maximum of £400. We noted from the spreadsheet that British Gas offered 81 boilers, 31 of which cost under £1,000 and accounted for 76.76% of sales between 1 January 2011 and 30 September 2011, and 80.28% of sales during November 2011. We considered that, because British Gas had demonstrated that more than 10% of their customers would receive a 40% discount of up to £400, the claim was not misleading.
On this point we investigated ad (a) under BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Advertisements must not mislead consumers by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that consumers need in context to make informed decisions about whether or how to buy a product or service. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead consumers depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the advertisement is constrained by time or space, the measures that the advertiser takes to make that information available to consumers by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 3.10 3.10 Advertisements must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification) but did not find it in breach.
We noted from the briefing document for the "40%/£400 off" offer that it was not available on Low Cost and Simplicity ranges. We also noted that the website stated "That's a saving of up to 40%.*" and directed readers further down the page to text that stated "*... Cannot be used in conjunction with any other British Gas Boiler offer". However, we also noted the website did not provide any information about the "Simplicity" offer and that the "Simplicity" briefing document indicated that sales agents could only quote this offer if they had done a full-price quote and it was clear the customer would not follow through due to cost. We considered that, because the "Simplicity" offer was not generally available, and no information about it was provided on the website, readers were unable to find out about the other boiler offers that would restrict them from taking advantage of the "40%/£400 off" offer. We noted consumers were unable to take advantage of the 40%/£400 off offer if they had been offered the "Simplicity" quote and considered that this was significant information that had not been adequately qualified and concluded that the ad was misleading on those grounds.
On this point ad (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification).
Ad (b) must not appear again in its current form. We told British Gas to ensure that they made clear significant limitations in future.