A website, www.goodenergy.co.uk, for an energy company, provided information about the company. A web page headed "Supporting your business", stated "As the UK's leading 100% renewable electricity supplier, we are the company of choice for people who care that their electricity only comes from clean, natural sources".
Ecotricity Group Ltd challenged whether the claim "the UK's leading 100% renewable electricity supplier" was misleading and could be substantiated.
Good Energy Ltd (GE) said they were the only UK electricity supplier which had a 100% renewable electricity tariff accredited through the Green Energy Supply Certification scheme (GESCA), and which also used only renewable electricity in its fuel mix (other companies which had GESCA certified 100% renewable tariffs also had ‘non-green' tariffs where the energy was supplied at least in part from non-renewable sources). They explained that GESCA awarded the 'Certified Green Energy' label to tariffs that met guidelines specified by Ofgem, the energy regulator.
GE said that, in its annual assessment of renewable energy suppliers, the Ethical Company Organisation (ECO) had rated them highest for eight years consecutively. The ECO's rating was based on a range of indicators including energy mix, nuclear power and pollution. GE said they scored 100% and rated as the top company on ECO's comparison page. GE also said that a customer survey by Which? magazine had rated their customer service the highest of all energy suppliers for three of the past four years.
GE emphasised that they were the only energy supplier which sourced 100% renewable electricity and had a 100% renewable fuel mix. They considered they were the sole operator in a niche market within the wider electricity market and were therefore the market leader in that niche market. They provided a table, compiled from third-party sources, which they said demonstrated that they were the only company solely dedicated to sourcing 100% renewable electricity. They highlighted that the claim referred to them as the UK's leading 100% renewable electricity "supplier", rather than referencing 100% renewable electricity tariffs. They considered consumers would therefore understand the claim to relate to their position as the only, and consequently the leading, supplier in a niche market rather than being a comparison with companies which offered both 100% renewable tariffs and ‘non-green' tariffs.
The ASA understood that "100% renewable electricity" tariffs worked through an energy trading system, where the electricity supplier ensured that an amount of electricity from renewable sources was supplied to the national grid which was equal to the amount of electricity used by their customers on a yearly basis. We understood that GE was the only electricity supplier which matched all the electricity used by all its customers with 100% renewable electricity.
We noted GE's view that consumers would understand the advertising claim to refer to their status as a supplier, because it did not specifically mention their status in terms of tariffs. We considered, however, that although it did not specifically reference tariffs, consumers would understand the claim "the UK's leading 100% renewable electricity supplier" to be a comparative claim that GE was the leading supplier of 100% renewable electricity tariffs, regardless of whether other suppliers of 100% renewable electricity tariffs also offered ‘non-green' electricity tariffs. In that context, we considered consumers would understand "leading" to mean that GE had more customers on its 100% renewable electricity tariff/s than other companies had on their 100% renewable electricity tariffs. We therefore considered that, to substantiate the claim, GE would need to provide comparative evidence which demonstrated that GE had more customers on its 100% renewable electricity tariff than their competitors. Because we had not seen such evidence, we concluded the claim was misleading.
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 3.38 3.38 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an unidentifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer. The elements of the comparison must not be selected to give the marketer an unrepresentative advantage. (Other comparisons).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Good Energy they should not make claims which implied that they had more customers on their 100% renewable electricity tariff than their competitors unless they held substantiation that was the case.