A website, randrcountry.co.uk, for equestrian and country pursuits retailer R&R Country, seen on 20 May 2017, featured a horse rug called the "Weatherbeeta Comfitec Essential Standard Neck Lit". Under the product details it stated, “Strong and durable 1200 denier ripstop outer shell with repel shell coating that is both waterproof and breathable”, i.e. it was "waterproof".
The complainant, who maintained that the rug did not protect their horse from heavy wet weather, challenged whether the claim “waterproof” was misleading and could be substantiated.
R&R Country Ltd t/a R&R Country said the rug had undergone in-store testing procedures as advised by the supplier. The in-store test began by laying the rug over a large wheelbarrow. A full bucket of water was poured on the outer layer of the rug and left for 10 minutes. No water leaked through to the inner layer of the rug or through the outer layer.
R&R Country said that under certain circumstances the horse could get wet if in a heavy down pour. They said that because the rug did not have a neck cover, water could roll down the horse’s neck and enter the liner of the rug . R&R Country said it was also possible for a horse to sweat into a rug, which could create the appearance that the rug had leaked.
To substantiate the ad’s claim, an independent test report commissioned by the rug's supplier was provided. The report showed the rug’s fabric had passed the Hydrostatic Head Test for waterproofing which was stated to be an established test. The fabric (100 cm2) withstood 3000 m of water pressure over 24 hours before it began. It was understood that the minimum UK standard to classify a fabric as waterproof was 1600 m.
Another independent report was also provided on the breathability of the fabric using the water vapour transmission test. The test measured the grams of water vapour that passed through a square metre of fabric over a 24-hour period; the rug’s result was 5184 g/m2.
Weatherbeeta, the rug manufacturer, said they adhered to British Equestrian Trade Association Codes which stated that a waterproof classification related only to the outer material rather than the whole product.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim “waterproof” to mean that the rug would prevent the back and underside of the horse, namely the areas covered by the rug, from getting wet when in the outdoors, including in wet conditions. We also considered that consumers would understand that there would be some conditions, such as heavy or continual rain, where the design of the rug meant that some water penetration could not be prevented.
We noted the fabric used for the rug had passed the established waterproofing test. We considered that because of the design of the rug it was possible that rain could seep down a horse’s mane or hair and into the lining of the rug, particularly in very poor weather conditions. We also considered that because of the shape of the item, it was possible that water could pass through depending on how the animal moved, as would be the case for other waterproof items such as waterproof jackets or hoods designed for humans.
Because we considered that was in line with consumers’ understanding of the claim “waterproof” in the context of a horse rug and because R&R Country had demonstrated the item had passed standardised testing for waterproofing, we concluded the ad was not misleading.
We investigated under 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), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary