Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A website for Maclaren, www.maclaren.uk, seen on 5 June 2017 featured an image of the “Quest” buggy with descriptive text stating “Ideal for newborn babies … Quest features a full recline 4-position seat… and Newborn Safety System™”. Under “KEY FEATURES” the website stated “The Universal Carrycot's cosy, lie-flat comofort [sic] is recommended by health professionals for proper infant development”.
The complainant, who understood that newborn babies must lie flat, raised concerns that as the buggy did not recline fully to 180 degrees, it puts newborns that may be in the buggy at risk. The complainant challenged whether the claims:
1. the buggy was “full recline” and “lie-flat” were misleading and could be substantiated; and
2. “ideal for newborns” was socially irresponsible.
1. & 2. Maclaren UK Ltd said the Quest stroller was fully compliant with European Standard/ British Standard EN BS 1888: 2012, section 184.108.40.206, regarding the suitability of vehicles intended for use from birth. This stated that the seat of such vehicles must be capable of adjustment to an angle of 150 degrees or more. Maclaren said the Quest’s seat reclined to 150 degrees or further, as per the requirements of this standard, but it did not recline fully to 180 degrees. They provided the certification of the product’s compliancy to this standard; this stated that the angle range between the backrest and seat surface was 117 to 153 degrees.
Furthermore, Maclaren said the buggy was also compatible with the Maclaren Carrycot, which was a lie flat product that could be attached to the stroller, which could be purchased separately as an accessory for the Quest stroller.
The ASA considered that consumers would be likely to understand the claim “full recline 4-position seat“, in the product summary at the top of the web page, to mean that the Quest buggy could recline fully to 180 degrees to allow infants to lie flat. We noted that the “lie-flat” claim in full referred to the Universal Carrycot. However, because it followed the “full recline” claim in the product summary, and appeared further down the page within a scrolling set of general commentary about the product’s key features, we considered the context in which the claim was presented did not make clear that it related to a separate accessory rather than to the buggy.
We understood that the Quest buggy reclined to 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. degrees, but that it did not fully recline to a lie flat position. We acknowledged that the product was compatible with the Maclaren Carrycot which offered a lie flat option, and the ad stated the Carrycot was “recommended by health professionals for proper infant development”. However, the Carrycot was a separate product that had to be purchased in addition to the buggy. We considered the ad did not make sufficiently clear that the lie flat Carrycot was not a standard feature included with the buggy. Therefore we considered that the buggy’s compatibility with the Carrycot did not provide a sufficient basis for the implication that the buggy could recline fully and offered a “lie-flat” option.
Because the buggy did not recline fully to 180 degrees as implied by the ad, and the lie flat Carrycot accessory was a separate product, we concluded that the “full recline” and “lie-flat” claims were misleading.
On that 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) and 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).
We considered the claim “Ideal for newborns” in the context of the web page, which stated the buggy featured a “full recline 4-position seat” and “Newborn Safety System™”. We considered that “ideal” suggested the buggy was intended for, and particularly safe for, newborn babies, in part due to the fully reclining seat. We also took into account advice on the NHS website which stated “strollers and buggies, are only suitable for young babies if they have fully reclining seats, so your baby can lie flat”.
We acknowledged that Maclaren had provided certification demonstrating that the Quest buggy was compliant with European Standard/ British Standard 1888: 2012, which stipulated that pushchairs intended for use from birth reclined to an angle of 150 degrees or more. Additionally we understood the product was compatible with the Maclaren Carrycot and had a “Newborn Safety System” that provided barriers above the head and around the lower body.
However, we considered that the claim “Ideal for newborns” particularly in association with the claim “full recline”, which as stated above we considered to be misleading, unduly emphasised the buggy’s suitability for very young babies, because we understood the buggy did not offer a lie-flat environment. We therefore concluded that the claim “ideal for newborns” was irresponsible.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Maclaren UK Ltd they must not state that the product reclined fully or that it was “ideal” for newborn babies, and they must ensure that “lie-flat” claims regarding the Universal Carrycot did not imply that they related to the buggy.