An ad feature in National Trust magazine stated "For over 15 years, Good Energy has been supplying customers with cleaner, greener, 100 per cent renewable electricity ... the renewable electricity it supplies comes from a variety of local, natural sources of more than 800 independent renewable generators who are making electricity for themselves from sunshine, wind and rain. This includes power from several National Trust sites across the country, such as the hydro turbines at Hafod y Llan farm in Snowdonia and Aberdulais Tin Works and Waterfall in Wales...".
A reader challenged whether the ad feature misleadingly implied that Good Energy supplied its renewable energy directly to its customers, when they understood that was not the case.
Good Energy said the ad would be interpreted to mean that they supplied 100% renewable electricity; a statement which was true. They did not supply any power which was not renewable in source to the National Grid and they believed the ad accurately described the provenance of their electricity.
Good Energy said the ad’s message was to highlight the source of the electricity which it supplied. They believed it did not, and nor was it intended to, describe the delivery mechanism of such electricity. They did not agree with the complainant’s view that it implied such a message or one that suggested Good Energy supplied its electricity directly to consumers, which was likely to be impractical, if not impossible, as well as unlawful.
Good Energy believed that consumers were likely to be aware that all electricity purchased for use in the UK was delivered to them via the National Grid, regardless of which commercial entity generated or supplied it. They were also likely to understand that different suppliers provided electricity to the National Grid which was generated using a range of different power sources, including coal, gas, nuclear and renewable sources, and that while consumers might generate their own electricity via domestic solar panels, their surplus electricity was transmitted to the National Grid and paid for by suppliers via a feed in tariff.
They also believed that consumers who sought out any background information on this issue would have become aware that all licensed electricity suppliers were legally obliged to supply electricity via the National Grid and that it did not allow consumers to receive electricity only from one particular source or class of sources such as “green” or nuclear.
Good Energy said consumers were not materially concerned with whether or not the electricity they paid for was delivered via the National Grid; a concern they believed to be irrational given that all electricity has to be delivered via the National Grid. They noted that the issue was not identified by Ofgem as an issue that required clarification in the marketing and selling of electricity in its report “Green Tariffs: Additionality and Messaging - Research Summary” published in July 2014. They believed that if it had been an issue for consumers, Ofgem would have highlighted it as one.
The National Trust said they saw the ad’s message as one about how the electricity Good Energy supplied was generated, not how it was delivered and that consumer’s would understand that. They noted the ad referred to a number of renewable sources which logically implied that the energy produced was pooled before distribution.
The National Trust believed consumers were unlikely to believe that by simply switching providers, it would have any effect on the physical means by which they received their energy in their homes. They considered consumers were likely to be aware that the National Grid delivered their electricity; electricity which was came from a variety of different renewable sources. On that basis, they believed consumers were very unlikely to be misled into thinking they might receive their energy in some other way.
The National Trust did not believe that failing to state how energy was delivered to consumers was a material omission; rather that the average consumer was likely to understand that electricity was delivered via the National Grid and not through any other means. They were satisfied that the ad was not misleading and therefore, they were happy to publish the ad.
The ASA noted the complainant’s concerns that the ad implied Good Energy’s electricity was supplied directly to its customers. However, the ad was headlined “Switch to the Trust’s cleaner, greener electricity supplier” and included the claims “[Good Energy had] been supplying customers … with 100 per cent renewable electricity …”, “The renewable electricity it supplies comes from a variety of local, natural sources from across the UK …” and “This includes power from several National Trust sites across the country …”. The ad also included the claim “As you can trust where your electricity comes from when you’re with Good Energy …”.
We considered those claims were likely to be understood by consumers as references to the provenance of the electricity that Good Energy customers paid for and therefore the ad was likely to be understood in that context. We considered the key consideration for consumers in making a decision whether or not to respond to this particular ad would be whether or not they wished to switch from a tariff on which the electricity they used would be generated from non-renewable sources to one on which it would be generated from renewable sources. We recognised there might be consumers who responded to the ad who did so in the mistaken belief that the electricity delivered to their home would come directly from the renewable sources at which it was generated, and who would not understand that the vast majority of power generated by renewable and non-renewable sources was sent to and then distributed via the National Grid. Although that was not the case, we considered that because it is generally not possible to have this type of renewable energy supplied direct from power source to consumer, and because purchasing from a renewable energy supplier adds to the total renewable energy supplied through the National Grid, any consumers acting for those mistaken reasons would be unlikely to be disadvantaged nor would they have been likely to take a decision to not purchase from a renewable energy supplier had they been aware of how energy is distributed and supplied throughout the UK via the National Grid.
We understood that electricity used by customers on “green tariffs”, such as those offered by Good Energy, was accounted for by electricity from renewable sources being fed into the National Grid. Therefore, we considered that consumers who wanted to reduce the environmental impact of their energy consumption could still achieve that by switching to a Good Energy tariff, even if their electricity was delivered to them via the National Grid. We therefore concluded the ad was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 11.1 11.1 The basis of environmental claims must be clear. Unqualified claims could mislead if they omit significant information. (Environmental claims), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.