Summary of Council decision:Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A downloadable brochure for a car tuning service – Tunit Performance tuning – entitled “PERFORMANCE AND ECONOMY SOLUTIONS FOR ALL PETROL AND DIESEL CARS, 4x4s, COMMERCIAL AND AGRICULTURAL VEHICLES”, seen on 13 May 2019.
It featured text which stated “An independent university study found the Tunit cut exhaust emissions by 27% compared to comparative products, which doubled emissions” and “As well as being highly proven in domestic uses it has been used by government bodies commercially to save fuel costs by 12% and emissions by 27%”.
Steinbauer Tuning Technologies UK Ltd challenged whether the following were misleading and could be substantiated:
1. the claim that the product could reduce harmful emissions by up to 27% in comparison to similar car tuning products; and2. the claim that the product could help save 12% in fuel costs.
1. BVS Ltd provided a copy of a university investigation into the effects of increased fuel delivery on modern, electronically controlled diesel tractor engines.2. BVS provided a spreadsheet given to them by a local Council, which they said demonstrated the Tunit was effective at saving fuel. They also provided 16 testimonials which they believed demonstrated the capabilities of the product. BVS said they would change the claims so that they stated “Independent research carried out by a University study found the Tunit to be effective in their test in cutting emissions by 27% and improving fuel economy by 12%” and that “results may vary across different vehicles” and “Tunit has been verified to improve performance and reduce emissions by 27%. This verification has been carried out to present only on diesel tractors. While the tractor engine is used on other applications and the systems may be similar on other diesel engines, independent verification is only relevant to tractors”.
The ASA noted the title of the brochure referred to petrol and diesel vehicles, such as cars, four-by-fours and commercial and agricultural vehicles. In that context, we considered that consumers would understand from the claims “An independent university study found the Tunit cut exhaust emissions by 27% compared to comparative products, which doubled emissions” to mean that the Tunit reduced exhaust emissions by 27% by comparison to other car tuning products, some of which doubled emissions. We therefore expected BVS to provide us with evidence which demonstrated that the Tunit decreased exhaust emissions by 27% across a range of vehicles with both diesel and petrol engines, by comparison with a range of car tuner products representative of those across the market.
The university study was a thesis submitted by a student in order to fulfil the requirement for a Bachelor of Science degree and we could not be sure the study was published by or on behalf of the university itself. In addition, the study related specifically to diesel tractor engines, which was not representative of the full spread of vehicles and engine types referenced in the ad. Testing was only carried out on one tractor, and only three companies, including BVS, supplied chips for testing. Consequently, we could not be sure that the comparison was made against car tuner products that were representative of those across the market, nor that the results could be extrapolated to a wider number of vehicles.
While we welcomed BVS’ willingness to make changes to the ad, we did not consider them sufficient to override the overall impression created that the product improved performance on both commercial and agricultural vehicles, and because we considered the evidence provided in respect of the product’s ability to reduce fuel emissions across a range of vehicles and by comparison to other car tuner products that were representative of those across the market insufficient, we concluded that the claims that the product could reduce harmful emissions by up to 27% in comparison to similar car tuning products could not be substantiated and were therefore misleading.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
We considered that consumers would understand the claim “As well as being highly proven in domestic uses it has been used by government bodies commercially to save fuel costs by 12% ...” to mean that the Tunit was able to reduce a vehicle’s fuel costs by 12%. We therefore expected BVS to provide us with evidence which showed that by virtue of the Tunit alone, fuel costs had been cut by 12% on a range of vehicles. The document BVS provided from a local Council showed the miles per gallon for 37 vehicles before and after the Tunit was installed and showed an increase on 36 of those vehicles. We considered that the age and type of engine and vehicle in which it was fitted, driving conditions, driving style, weather conditions and the gradient of the terrain were all likely to affect the outcome of fuel efficiency tests. We had not been given any information to show the engines/vehicles used or a clear methodology of how the results had been captured. As such, the document did not constitute robust evidence that the results were achieved as a direct result of the Tunit having been fitted, nor did we consider the testimonials as sufficient evidence to demonstrate the capabilities of the product. Therefore, because we had not been provided with sufficient evidence to demonstrate the product was capable of reducing fuel costs by 12%, we considered that such claims had not been substantiated and were misleading.On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told BVS Ltd to ensure that they did not make claims that their products were able to improve fuel efficiency or reduce emissions unless they held documentary evidence that was the case.