Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, of which one was Not upheld and two were Upheld.
A national newspaper ad, seen on 12 September 2015, for an electric heating system was headed "New Boiler or No Boiler?". The ad featured drawings of the interior plans of two houses, one labelled "Fischer Heaters" and the other "Conventional Boiler". Text on the "Fischer Heaters" house stated "Thermostat in every room for a 'just right' temperature" and "Water Heating" with an arrow pointing to a small cupboard in the kitchen. The "Conventional Boiler" loft included a large and small water tank, whereas the "Fischer Heaters" drawing did not include the water tanks, but an additional bedroom. The rooms in both drawings included a coloured temperature reading, with those in the "Conventional Boiler" house at a higher level. All the rooms in the "Fischer Heaters" home were coloured orange with the temperatures in the living room given as 21˚C and in the bedroom as 19˚C. The "Conventional Boiler" living room was coloured blue at the bottom, orange in the middle and red at the top with a corresponding coloured temperature gauge reading upwards 16˚C, 21˚C and 24˚C. A woman was shown sitting on a sofa with a blanket around her legs. The bedroom was red with a temperature of 25˚C.
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the difference in temperature readings between the two living rooms was misleading and could be substantiated, because they understood the temperature gradient would be the same in both homes;
2. the drawings of the loft water tanks in the "Conventional Boiler" home gave a misleading impression of what was required from both heating systems and the space required; and
3. the claim "Thermostat in every room for a 'just right' temperature" misleadingly implied that the room temperature in a "Conventional Boiler" home could not be adjusted to the temperature required.
1. Fischer Future Heat UK said, because warm air rose, the higher a heating thermostat was situated, the cooler the temperature would be at floor level. They explained that manufacturers and building regulations recommended central heating thermostats should be installed at 1.5 m from the ground, whilst a Fischer heater thermostat was positioned at 70 cm to 90 cm from the floor. They believed that, because the temperature was measured at a lower level, it would be warmer at floor level and the temperature for the whole room would therefore be easier to control. Independent tests had shown that when setting the Fischer heater temperature at 21 oC, temperature readings measured from the ground at various heights from 0.3 to 2.2 metres had ranged from 20.92 oC to 21.21 oC. They believed that no independent testing conducted on central heating systems had shown similar temperatures.
2. Fischer Future Heat said that some central heating systems had gravity header tanks, which were positioned in loft space. With a Fischer system all tanks and piping were removed from the loft and the customer could then convert the space into a living area if they wished.
3. Fischer Future Heat explained that a single thermostat was situated on the ground floor in a conventional boiler home and the boiler was regulated by the thermostat switching on and off based on measuring the room temperature where the thermostat was situated. The temperature in the other rooms would not be measured, because they did not contain a thermostat.
Thermostats on the radiators regulated the input of hot water to the radiator, but did not measure the temperature of the room in which it was placed. Only the thermostat situated on the ground floor was able to switch the boiler on or off. Fischer Future Heat said their system included a thermostat in every room and the temperature could therefore be regulated to the “right” temperature set by the customer in each of the rooms.
The ASA noted that the picture of the ground floor in the conventional gas boiler house was coloured blue at ground level, orange mid-room and red at ceiling level and included a woman wrapped in blanket sitting on a sofa. It depicted the temperature as 16 oC at floor level, 21 oC mid-room and 24 oC at ceiling height, whereas the picture of the Fischer heater house ground floor was coloured orange and had a static temperature of 21 oC. We considered consumers would understand the drawings to mean that the temperature in the Fischer heater home would remain steady throughout the room, while the temperature in the conventional boiler home ranged from cold to hot.
Fischer Future Heating supplied an independent test, which they believed had shown that the temperature would be fairly consistent throughout the Fischer heater room. The temperature was measured at various heights in a closed cuboid shape ‘room’ that measured 3 m by 4 m and was 4 m in height, with the floor raised by means of insulation slabs to give an internal floor-ceiling height of 2.5 m. The ‘room’ was sufficiently airtight to prevent any significant flow from or to the ambient air outside. The temperature was taken over one 16-hour period representing a ‘daytime’ running period.
Although the drawing of the Fischer ground floor room was presented as having a consistent temperature of 21 oC from floor to ceiling, we understood that temperature readings had not been taken at floor level or ceiling height. The lowest temperature reading was taken at 30 cm from the internal floor level and the highest reading was taken 30 cm from the ceiling. We therefore considered that, because measurements had not been taken at floor and ceiling level, the test report was not sufficiently robust to support the claim that the temperature would remain the same throughout the entire room. We also understood that, because the room was sealed and relatively small, it was likely to retain the heat throughout the test period and therefore the temperature was unlikely to be representative of the type of temperature that could be maintained in an average home.
In addition, because the ad compared the temperature between the Fischer room and the conventional boiler room, we considered that we needed to see comparative tests for the conventional boiler room in order to substantiate the claimed temperature.
Because we saw no comparative evidence to substantiate the claimed room temperatures in relation to the conventional boiler room and the test report was not sufficiently robust to support the claim that the temperature would remain the same throughout the entire Fischer room, we concluded that the drawing gave a misleading impression of the likely room temperatures in the two types of homes.
On this point, 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), 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) and 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
We understood that the header tank, which was used to fill the heating system and accommodate the expansion of water during the heating cycle, was the smaller of two water tanks usually found in a loft; the larger tank being the cold water storage tank. We understood that, although the header tank was likely to be removed, because it was not required for a Fischer heater, the cold water tank would nonetheless still remain in place.
The drawing of the loft area in the conventional boiler house included both tanks, but the loft in the Fischer heater house was shown as having been converted into a bedroom, which gave the impression that installing the heater would provide extra space, because both tanks would be removed. We acknowledged that some customers might opt for repositioning the cold water storage tank during the installation process in order to create more space, but because it would not automatically be removed as a result of installing Fisher heaters, we considered that the drawing exaggerated the amount of space that would be made available.
We concluded that the ad gave a misleading impression of the space saving advantages of the system and breached the Code.
On this point, 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), 3.11 3.11 Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product. (Exaggeration) and 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
3. Not upheld
We considered consumers would understand the ad as a comparison between a standard conventional boiler and the Fischer heater system and the claim “Thermostat in every room for a ‘just right’ temperature” to mean that the Fischer heating system gave them easier control over individual room temperatures. We understood that a conventional boiler thermostat was located on the ground floor and was able to control the water pump when the whole house was warm, but was unable to measure the temperature of each room. However, modern thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) could be set to a desired temperature for each room. TRVs sensed the air temperature around them and regulated the flow of water through the radiator to which they were fitted, but needed free flow of air to sense the temperature; they could not be covered by curtains or blocked by furniture.
Each room in a Fischer heater house had its own thermostat, which measured the room temperature and also allowed customers to ensure that each room was at the temperature they required, which we understood was likely to be more precise than a TRV, as these could only sense the air around it. The claim “Thermostat in every room for a ‘just right’ temperature” highlighted that feature, which we considered would be understood by consumers to mean that the Fischer heating system gave them more control over temperature because each room had its own thermostat, rather than a claim implying that the heat in a conventional boiler home could not be adjusted in some way. We therefore concluded that the claim was not misleading.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors), but did not find it in breach.
The ad must not appear again in its present form. We told Fischer Future Heat UK Ltd to ensure that they held suitable documentary evidence to support future comparative claims. We also told them not to exaggerate the potential benefits of their product.