A paid-for Facebook post by LARQ, a water bottle retailer, seen in September 2020, displayed an image of a pink water bottle with the text above stating “The LARQ Bottle eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses, keeping your water and bottle clean 24/7. Shop Now”.
IssueThe complainant challenged whether the claim “The LARQ Bottle eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses” was misleading and could be substantiated.
ResponseLARQ removed the ad when they were informed of the complaint. LARQ provided third-party lab tests that they believed showed that the bottle could eradicate bacteria (specifically E. coli and Salmonella) using their patented UV-C LED technology. LARQ also provided three datasheets from the manufacturer in relation to the LED component.
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to interpret the claim “the LARQ Bottle eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses” to mean that the product was able to successfully kill bacteria and viruses in the water. In the absence of further qualifying information, we considered that consumers would understand the claim to be in relation to all viruses and bacteria. Two certificates of analysis were submitted; both were dated 30 May 2018. Both reports used four stainless steel bottles and one UV-C LED cap for the testing.
The first report used E. coli as the test organism. It was tested in three replicates for two-minute tests and six replicates for one- and three-minute tests. The plates were then incubated for 48 hours at 35 degrees Celsius. The study concluded that the bottle killed 99.9775% of E. coli at one-minute treatments, 99.9998% at two-minute treatments and 99.9999% at three-minute treatments. The second report used Salmonella as the test organism and was tested in three replicates for two-minute tests and six replicates for one- and three-minute tests.
The plates were then incubated for 48 hours at 35 degrees Celsius. The study concluded that the bottle killed 98.1976% at one minute, 99.9733% at two minutes and 99.9999% at three minutes. We understood that the LARQ bottle had two settings: a “normal mode” of a one-minute exposure cycle and an “adventure” mode of a three-minute exposure cycle. The “adventure” mode matched the maximum time tested in the lab test. The tests were conducted against two types of bacteria. However, we did not see any testing against any viruses or other types of bacteria. We had therefore only seen evidence in relation to a very small selection of bacteria and no evidence for the product’s capability against viruses.
The datasheets were only in relation to the discrete LED component and were therefore not relevant to the efficacy of the specific LARQ product. Because LARQ had not provided sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim that the bottle “eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses”, as consumers were likely to understand it, we concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.
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 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification).
The ad must not appear in the form complained about. We told LARQ to ensure they did not state or imply that the bottle could kill all bacteria and viruses unless they held evidence to demonstrate that was the case.