A leaflet for Fischer heaters, seen in April 2019, on one side stated "10 YEAR WARRANTY*"; "Compatible with Economy 7 (19) and normal tariffs"; "100% COMPLETE HEATING GUARANTEE (1) ... Removing the uncertainty of heating. If our heater does not heat your room to 21 degrees C, we will replace it free of charge - no other heating manufacturer offers this guarantee (1)".
The other side of the leaflet stated "OUR PROMISE ... FREE HEAT (15). Fischer gives back to the customer"; "1000 units (kWh) free electricity (15). Saving you money on your heating bills". A footnote at the bottom of the page in small grey print stated "*With a two year warranty on the electronic controls (thermostats and receivers). (1) Only applies where all rooms in the property are heated, there are no more than 2 exchanges per hour within the room & heaters are used according to manufacturer's instructions. Will not apply where a room has an open chimney/vents. (19) Radiators use both night and day rate to control temperature. (15) You will only be eligible to receive a reward under this offer as long as your electricity and/or gas is supplied by Fischer Energy and your payment method is Direct Debit. If you have both fuels you must have both fuels with Fischer Energy. This offer is only available at point of purchase (via the free no obligation survey) on new orders and cannot apply retrospectively to heaters previously purchased. Eligibility based on the purchase of a minimum of 3 heaters. 3 heaters qualify you for a maximum of 900Kw, 4 or more heaters qualify you for the maximum offer of 1,000Kw. This offer cannot be used in conjunction with the 'Full House Package' or any additional offers … Standard Fischer Energy terms & conditions apply. These can be found at www.fischerenergy.co.uk/conditions. Full terms & conditions for this offer are available on www.fischerfutureheat.com/free-heat-offer."
IssueThe complainant, who believed that the size and colour of the small print made it difficult to read, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
Fischer Future Heat UK Ltd (Fischer) said that the print would usually appear in black but was grey due to a design error. They said that the font size used was standard for terms and conditions and provided examples from other advertisers.
They believed that the text was of a size which most people could read. It was impossible to make it legible to everyone because a minority of people had serious sight problems. However, Fischer catered for the majority and the average person.
The ASA noted that the small print included information in relation to a 10-year warranty, a “100% complete heating guarantee” and a “free heat” offer. We considered that it contained a number of significant conditions that would impact on a consumer’s transactional decision to make further enquiries about Fischer’s heaters. The small print was presented in a grey font on a white background. We acknowledged Fischer’s comments that this was due to an error, but noted that the text and graphics in the rest of the ad did not appear faded. The size of the text was very small, particularly in relation to the text used in the rest of the ad. Furthermore, the different conditions listed within the ad were linked via asterisks or footnote numbers to different claims spread across both sides of the leaflet, and did not follow a logical numerical order.We acknowledged that the static print medium allowed for consumers to take as much time as they needed to read the ad. However, we considered that the combination of factors described above would make it difficult for people with average eyesight to read the text in the small print, and those with poorer eyesight were likely to have greater difficulties. Taking into account the amount and complexity of information featured in the small print, including multiple significant conditions, we considered that the presentation of the small print within the context of the ad overall was likely to mislead consumers. We concluded that the ad breached the Code. The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.10 (Qualification).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Fischer Future Heat UK Ltd to ensure that qualifications were presented clearly.