Background

Summary of council decision:

Three issues were investigated, one of which was Upheld and two Not upheld.

Ad description

Two national press ads and a website seen for the Gtech AirRam Mk 2 and Gtech AirRam, a vacuum cleaner:

a. A national press ad for Gtech AirRam Mk 2, seen on 11 November 2017, included text “What do you hate most about vacuuming? … Whatever it is, we changed the powerful Gtech AirRam Mk 2 to make it disappear... The dust cloud when you empty the cylinder. History … Lightweight Thanks to its revolutionary design, which does away with so many bulky parts, the AirRam Mk.2 weighs just 3.5kg (7.7lbs) … Long run-time AirRam Mk.2’s 40 minute* run-time gives you the ability to clean two average UK homes on one 4-hour charge … *Runtimes quoted may vary depending on floor surfaces cleaned”.

b. The website www.gtech.co.uk stated on the product listing for the Gtech AirRam Mk 2, seen in November 2017, “Its energy efficient design means you can clean your home twice on one 4-hour charge, running for up to 40 minutes; a 1-hour short charge will deliver a burst of additional time …”. The text was accompanied by an image of the product on a carpet.

c. A national press ad for the Gtech AirRam, seen on 14 January 2018, included text “High performance cordless cleaning. The AirRam is a powerful but lightweight cordless vacuum with cleaning performance proven on both carpet and hard-floors … Lightweight Thanks to its revolutionary design, which does away with so many bulky parts, the AirRam weighs just 3.2kg (7lbs) … Long run-time AirRam’s 40 minute* run-time means you can clean two average UK homes on one 4-hour charge. A 1-hour short charge will deliver an additional burst of cleaning time”.

Issue

Dyson challenged whether the following claims were misleading and could be substantiated:

1. In relation to ad (a) “The dust cloud when you empty the cylinder. History”.

2. In relation to ad (b) “Lightweight … the AirRam Mk. 2 weighs just 3.5kg (7.7lbs)”, and in relation to ad (c) “Lightweight … the AirRam weighs just 3.2kg (7lbs)”.

3. In relation to ad (c), “The AirRam is [a] powerful”.

Response

1. Grey Technology Ltd t/a Gtech said they believed that multi-cyclone vacuum cleaners generated a dust cloud when emptied, due to the way they separated fine particles from debris. They provided an internally conducted report which explained the process. They said that they had not and did not intend to claim that there were zero particulates released from the AirRam Mk 2 when it was emptied. They explained that they accepted that dust particles did escape and they may be visible when the bin was emptied in a certain type of lighting. They further explained that they did not consider visible particles to be a cloud and that a cloud would be a collection of particles of vapour which was of sufficient concentration that it would be clearly observed as a visible mass. They said that only isolated particles were visible when the AirRam Mk 2 was emptied and that this did not constitute a cloud. They provided us with evidence which they said showed there was a substantial reduction in the amount of dust that was released from the AirRam Mk2 compared to other models. They provided two videos which showed the emptying process of a Dyson upright vacuum cleaner and the Gtech AirRam Mk2, which they believed substantiated the claim.

2. Gtech said that they marketed the AirRam Mk2 as a vacuum cleaner and that they did not intend for consumers to limit their comparisons only to other cordless products. They explained that the Air Ram Mk2 was an upright vacuum cleaner according to the definitions contained within the IEC 60312/62885 series of standards and therefore if the lightweight claim was to be limited in scope the comparison would be against other upright cleaners. They further said that they did not limit any assessment of the claim to include only other cordless vacuum cleaners. They explained that the ad included a figure for the actual mass of the product in kilograms which they considered would assist consumers in being able to make an accurate comparison against any other type of vacuum cleaner. They provided a report which reviewed the weight of the best-selling vacuum cleaners compared to the AirRam Mk2, which they said showed that it was light weight.

3. Gtech said that they considered that consumers would interpret the “Powerful” claim to be in reference to cleaning performance and that consumers were likely to infer that the most powerful vacuum cleaner had the best dust removal ability. They understood that the relevant CAP guidance required that unqualified “power” or “powerful” claims needed to be supported by both suction power tests and dust removal tests. They disagreed with the guidance and said that they considered that these types of claims should be able to be justified with only dust removal tests as they considered that dust removal and cleaning ability were unrelated to suction power for some types of cleaners. They said that they had test data that measured the dust pickup performance against a number of competitor products.

They provided four documents which included pickup results comparison, pickup performance vs throttling, IEC pickup results vs throttling and measurement data for air performance with different throttle plates. They included a chart which showed the cleaning ability of the product and followed the methodology detailed in the British Standard. Gtech said that they were aware that the AirRam Mk 2 achieved a low suction power figure which was deliberate in its design. They said that there was no value in wasting energy in achieving high suction power when it was not of benefit to the function of the product or the consumer.

They further explained that their ads made no claims about suction power and did not provide suction power figures to consumers as they were inconsequential to the design of the Air Mk2. They said that their claim of powerful cleaning performance only extended to cleaning performance. Gtech provided further additional testing in response to the complainant’s concern that their testing could not demonstrate the vacuum cleaner’s effectiveness in picking up large objects. They explained that there was no standardised methodology to test performance on large object collection, so they had adopted the standardised method used to test dust pick up performance on hard flat floors, using large debris: nuts, screws, lentil and rice instead of dust. Gtech blocked the AirRam’s inlet so that no debris could be picked up through suction power, while six other vacuum cleaners were run as normal. The results showed that that the AirRam picked up the second largest amount of large debris.

Assessment

1. Upheld

The ASA noted that ad (a) featured the claim “Whatever it is, we designed the powerful Gtech AirRam Mk.2. to make it disappear: … The dust cloud when you empty the cylinder. History”. We considered that consumers would interpret that claim as a whole and in particular the claims “disappear” and “history” in a definitive way to mean that Gtech had developed a new technology, which meant that there would no longer be a cloud of dust when the vacuum cleaner was emptied.

We understood that the Gtech AirRam Mk 2 had a mechanism which meant that when emptying the cylinder the dust was pushed out with a lever rather than as in other types of vacuums, where the dust fell or was tipped out when the cylinder was opened. While we acknowledged the existence of that technical difference, we noted that emptying the cylinder still required a quantity of dust to be propelled through the air into a bin which meant that the presence of some dust in the air around the device at that time was likely to be inevitable. We noted from Gtech’s response that they accepted that some particles did still escape during the process. Gtech provided a video of the product being emptied, which we considered showed that, if used in a certain way, the mechanism might assist a cautious user in reducing the amount of dust in the air around the device when it was emptied. However, some dust particles remained visible in the light, and we considered that a significant minority of consumers would regard this as a dust cloud.

The complainant (Dyson) had also provided a video of the AirRam Mk2 cylinder being emptied using a slightly more forceful technique than in the video provided by Gtech, and a cloud of dust was clearly visible. Because we had not seen evidence that the Gtech AirRam Mk2 could be emptied without creating a dust cloud we concluded that the claim was misleading.

On that point, ad (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).

2. Not upheld

We considered that consumers would interpret the claims “Lightweight … the AirRam Mk. 2 weighs just 3.5kg (7.7lbs)” and “Lightweight … the AirRam weighs just 3.2kg (7lbs)” as claims about the weight of the product and not as comparative claims with other vacuum cleaners, either cordless or corded. We considered that as the claims stated the precise weights of the vacuum cleaners, this allowed consumers to make a judgement as to whether it was light enough for them to use and provided them with relevant information if they wanted to make a comparison with another model. We considered that the claim was a statement about the specification of the product. We therefore concluded that the ad was not misleading.

On that point, we investigated ads (b) and (c) under CAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation), but did not find it in breach.

3. Not upheld

We noted that the claim “The AirRam is [a] powerful but lightweight cordless vacuum cleaner with cleaning performance proven on both carpet and hard floors” which was featured in a section of ad (c) discussed the product’s cleaning performance and features. We considered that consumers would interpret the claim to mean that, as a cordless vacuum cleaner, the product was effective at removing different types of dirt including dust and debris commonly found in a household from different surface types.

We noted that the evidence submitted by Gtech did not include suction power testing. Gtech argued that suction power testing was of no benefit to consumers because it did not increase a vacuum cleaner’s cleaning performance. They argued that there was no link between suction power and cleaning performance as the testing only measured how effectively the unit converted electrical energy into air movement and that other factors could play a far more important role in determining a vacuum cleaner’s cleaning ability. On the other hand, other manufacturers including Dyson argued that a vacuum cleaner functioned solely because it generated the suction power to draw in dust, dirt and debris. They believed that suction power was a key component because it demonstrated a vacuum cleaner’s ability to collect dirt, dust and larger debris whereas dust pick-up performance only measured dust and dirt. Dyson therefore believed that a combination of dust pick-up performance and suction power testing was necessary to support the claim.

We noted that there was a standardised dust removal test for vacuum cleaners, which Gtech had used in support of the claim “powerful.” The testing included measurements of a vacuum cleaner’s dust removal ability from hard flat floors, floors with crevices and carpets. The results showed that the pick-up performance of three AirRam Models had the 1st , 2nd and 4th highest pick-up performance results out of 26 cordless vacuum cleaners tested on hard floors; the 5th, 10th and 12th highest results on carpet; and the 1st, 6th and 19th highest result on crevices. We considered that those results showed that the vacuum cleaner was effective at removing dust. However, while those measurements were relevant to a vacuum cleaner’s cleaning ability, we considered that there were other elements, which were not covered under the standardised dust pick-up testing, that consumers would expect a vacuum cleaner to remove from a household, such as larger debris ‒ e.g. outdoor debris and food particles.

We understood that there was no standardised testing for effectiveness in picking up larger debris and that there was significant disagreement within the vacuum cleaner industry about the relevant test methods which should be used and, in particular, about what role suction power played in overall performance. To address those concerns, Gtech provided additional testing, applying the dust removal test methodology to nuts, screws, lentil and rice. The results showed that the AirRam model had the 2nd highest pick-up performance results out of six cordless vacuum cleaners. We considered that the methodology was robust, and demonstrated the vacuum cleaner’s effectiveness to remove large debris on hard surfaces. Although the large debris testing was not conducted on carpets, we considered that, in the context of the general claim (as opposed to more specific performance claims or comparative claims about a vacuum cleaner’s effectiveness), the evidence was adequate alongside the dust pick-up performance data on hard surfaces and carpets. Because, in conjunction with dust pick-up performance testing, Gtech had used additional testing to demonstrate the vacuum cleaner’s effectiveness at removing larger debris instead of suction power testing, we concluded that the powerful claim had been substantiated, and was therefore not misleading.

On that point, we investigated ad (c) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation), but did not find it in breach.

Action

Ad (a) must not appear again in its current form. We told Grey Technology Ltd t/a Gtech not to claim that their product had completely eliminated dust clouds unless they held adequate evidence to demonstrate that.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

3.1     3.7    


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