A TV ad for British Gas featured a British Gas technician explaining how to bleed a radiator. The technician stated, "If a radiator in your home is cold at the top but warm at the bottom, it could mean that you need to bleed your radiator. Firstly, turn off your central heating, and insert and twist your radiator key a quarter of a turn anticlockwise." The ad showed that process and was accompanied by on-screen text that stated, "Important: Check the radiator is cold first". The technician then stated "When the air stops, keep the valve open till water appears." A hand was shown holding a cloth underneath the key to collect water, while the other hand turned the key. The technician said, "Then shut the valve off again. Turn the system back on, and the problem should be solved." The technician was then shown leaving the property, and the voice-over stated, "For British Gas to come to your rescue, call 0800 XXX XXX."
Four complainants challenged whether the ad was misleading and irresponsible, because they understood that the majority of modern boilers were combination boilers and believed the advice provided in the ad could negatively affect the performance of those systems.
British Gas Services Ltd said combination boilers formed a higher proportion of new installations than conventional boilers. They believed that approximately 50% of people had a combination boiler and 50% had a traditional boiler.
British Gas Services said that to reduce the pressure in a sealed system to a degree that the system could not function, would require the removal of a significant amount of air. They believed it was unlikely that bleeding radiators would produce that result. They said the majority of combination boilers included a safety device and therefore believed that if the pressure in the system was significantly reduced, it would not result in damage to the boiler system.
British Gas Services said radiator-bleeding keys were readily available in hardware shops without any accompanying warning about their use because bleeding radiators was a safe activity.
Clearcast said the presenter in the ad was a British Gas engineer. They therefore believed it was unlikely that the advice was inaccurate.
The ASA understood that a significant number of people owned a combination boiler. The ad advised viewers, with a radiator that was cold at the top but warm at the bottom, to bleed their radiator. We sought the advice of the Institute of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM) on the complaint.
We understood that, if one were to bleed radiators several times on a combination boiler system without topping up the water, as recommended by the manufacturer, negative performance could be encountered. We also understood that, if an individual had been correctly advised in the use and operation of their boiler, they would be aware that they must monitor the pressure gauge and top up the system as and when required. We also understood a combination boiler would turn off automatically if low pressure was experienced and that the constant need to bleed radiators was a sign of additional issues within a system for which advice should be sought from a heating engineer.
We considered it was unlikely that bleeding the radiator, as described in the ad, would negatively affect the performance of a combination boiler. In particular, we noted a significant amount of air needed to be released to stop the boiler from functioning and considered the presentation of the ad would not result in people releasing that volume of air. Also, a significant number of combination boilers included a safety device that prevented damage being caused by a reduction in pressure.
We therefore concluded that the ad did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility) and 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.