Ad descriptionA website for Little Knights, a paint retailer, 20 June 2018, was titled “LITTLE KNIGHTS IS SIMPLY THE SAFEST PAINT FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY”. A sub-heading on the page stated “ANTI-BACTERIAL”, text underneath stated “Little Knights paint is anti-bacterial - it kills all known bacteria on contact, helping to protect you and your little ones from harmful bacteria and moulds.” Another sub-heading on the page stated “ZERO EMISSION”. Text underneath the heading stated “Little Knights is 100% VOC free, allergen free and odour-free.”
IssueLakeland Paints and the British Coatings Federation challenged whether the following claim was misleading and could be substantiated: 1. “100% VOC-free” Lakeland Paints also challenged whether the following claim was misleading and could be substantiated: 2. “Zero-Emission”
Response1. & 2. Little Knights said that the “VOC-free” claim meant that when the tin of paint was opened, there were no VOCs released. Little Knights acknowledged that VOCs could be found during the manufacturing process such as lights and machinery but said they had developed a unique manufacturing process which removed any trace odours or any other contaminants. Little Knights provided copies of three independent test reports conducted on a representative sample of the Little Knights paint product range. Two of the reports included qualitative analysis using GC-FID to identify any volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present. The third report examined the paint product’s compliance with the requirements of ‘Category lll’ materials in the EU toy safety standard.
1. Not upheld
The ASA noted that the ad featured the text “Little Knights is 100% VOC-free, allergen free and odour-free. It releases NO toxic emissions into the air, only water. It also contains an additive that safely absorbs formaldehyde. In that context, we considered that consumers would interpret the claim “100% VOC-free” to mean that the paint products were absent of all Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). Little Knights supplied two independent tests. We acknowledged that the product sample was conducted on a selection of paints which contained the same paint medium used in all of the Little Knights product range. The testing used a GC-FID analysis to identify whether any VOCs were present in the samples, using 0.1% as the internal standard of detection, which we considered to be sufficiently robust. The test results showed that no VOCs were detected in the samples.
We understood that the Volatile Organic Compounds in Paints, Varnishes and Vehicles Refinishing Products Regulations 2012 set out the limitations of emissions of VOCs for use in organic solvents, including the permitted analytical methods for determining compliance with the VOC content. The Regulation included the GC-FID method used by Little Knights. On that basis, we were satisfied that Little Knights had used an appropriate method to test the VOC content in their products. We noted that the British Coatings Federations argued that it was impossible to have entirely “VOC-free” paint because trace amounts would be present in the finished raw materials used to make the paint. However, we considered that if there were trace levels of VOCs present in paint which were below the level of detection and permitted regulatory levels, those amounts would be insignificant and would not be contrary to consumers’ understanding of the claim “100% VOC-free”. Because the evidence supplied showed that the Little Knights paint range were VOC-free, we concluded that the claim had been substantiated and was not misleading.
On that point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation) but did not find it in breach.
The CAP Code stated that the basis of environmental claims had to be clear and that marketers had to base environmental claims on the full life cycle of the advertised product, unless the marketing communication stated otherwise, and had to make clear the limits of the life cycle. We noted that the claim “ZERO EMISSIONS” was featured in the same section as the “VOC-free” claim. We also noted that paint products were typically made with materials that were known to have a harmful effect on the environment, such as plastics, heavy metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In that context, we considered that consumers would interpret the claim to mean that the products were free from any harmful substances which meant that their effect on the environment and human health was therefore reduced.
Little Knights supplied an independent test carried out on the migration of certain elements in accordance with the EU toy safety standard. We understood that the standard was intended to ensure that products met the EU safety, health and environmental protection requirements. The standard included limits for the migration of certain elements such as chromium and barium from parts of toys to minimise exposure to certain potentially toxic elements.
We noted that the testing had only been carried out on a sample described as Little Knights white emulsion. We had not seen evidence to demonstrate that that sample was representative of the Little Knights paint product range. Notwithstanding the above, the testing showed that the paint products satisfied the requirements of Category lll materials in accordance with the EU toy safety standard. However, we were concerned that the results only showed that the paints met the element materials limits and did not demonstrate that the products were absent from all emissions. Furthermore, Little Knights had not provided evidence to demonstrate that the products were free from other emissions not covered by the EU toy safety standard such as aldehydes. Because the evidence did not demonstrate whether all of the ingredients featured in the Little Knights paint range featured emissions, we concluded that the claim was misleading.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) , 3.7 (Substantiation) and 11.1 and 11.4 (Environmental claims).
The webpage must not appear in the form complained of. We told Little Knights to remove the claim “zero emissions” unless they adequate evidence to demonstrate that it was absent of all harmful emissions.