Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A website for CGON Ltd, www.cgon.co.uk, a manufacturer of a device that was fitted to car engines, seen on 28 April and 11 June 2017, made various efficacy claims for the "ezero1 Hydrogen fuel additive system".
Two complainants, one of whom was an engineer with a background in the automotive industry, challenged whether the following claims were misleading and could be substantiated:
1. "Increases fuel efficiency by up to 25%"; and
2. "Reduces engine emissions by up to 80%".
1. & 2. CGON supplied examples of VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, now Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) emission results tests and a summary document of more tests, which they said showed that there was a reduction in engine emissions of more than 80% after the device was fitted. They said the test results showed the extent of the reduction in emissions, which ranged between 63% and 100%, and the increase in miles per gallon (MPG) (to demonstrate the increase in fuel efficiency).
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA considered consumers would interpret the claims to mean that, by using the product, all or most vehicles powered by a petrol or diesel engine would experience a noticeable increase in efficiency, meaning more miles per litre of fuel, and reduction in engine emissions, with a reasonable proportion achieving the maximum 25% or 80% respectively. We therefore considered CGON needed to hold adequate evidence that showed that, under normal driving conditions, all or most vehicles powered by a petrol or diesel engine would achieve a noticeable improvement, with a reasonable proportion achieving the maximum.
We noted that, of the test results CGON had supplied, only one had assessed fuel efficiency. Although the results of that test reported an increased miles per gallon figure of 5.2% on the urban cycle and 7% at 50 mph and 70 mph, and stated that the test had been repeated four to five times, it had nevertheless been conducted on one vehicle only – a Jaguar – and the reported improvement was considerably less than the one claimed in the ad. The remaining evidence CGON had supplied for increased fuel efficiency consisted of testimonials from users of the device who reported an increase in their vehicles’ mpg figure. However, we considered evidence for the claim that engine efficiency of all or most vehicles increased when using the device needed to include controlled testing of a sufficiently wide range of vehicles to show that, under normal driving conditions, all or most vehicles powered by petrol or diesel engines would see this improvement, and that the improvement was due to the device. We considered that testing of a single vehicle and testimonial evidence from users did not constitute adequate evidence.
To support the claim that the device reduced vehicle emissions, part of the evidence CGON had supplied consisted of certificates of the kind issued in MOT tests for six vehicles, two with diesel and four with petrol engines, before and after fitting the device. The certificates reported that emission levels of the vehicles were lower after the device was fitted. However, while we acknowledged that the MOT was designed to establish whether a vehicle’s emission levels complied for the purposes of the MOT, we nevertheless considered that the test was not designed to meet the needs of the controlled testing that would be required to establish whether a reduction in emission levels was due to the use of the device or to some other factor.
Tests on three other vehicles had been undertaken by Emissions Analytics using a portable measurement system attached to the vehicles’ exhaust pipes. The details of the testing said it had been undertaken in urban cycles of 50 mph and 70 mph; that it had been repeated; and that it showed a reduction in vehicle emissions in each case. However, there had been some significant variations between vehicles and between cycles. We considered that evidence that engine emissions of all or most vehicles had been reduced when using the device needed to include controlled testing of a sufficiently wide range of vehicles that showed that, under normal driving conditions, all or most vehicles powered by petrol or diesel engines would see this improvement, and that the improvement was due to the device. We considered that testing of a limited range of vehicles, which had itself shown variations between vehicles and between cycles, and testimonial evidence from users was not sufficient.
We therefore concluded that the claims had not been substantiated and that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told CGON to ensure they held adequate evidence in future for claims that their device increased fuel efficiency or reduced engine emissions.