A national press ad, for the Renault ZOE, a car powered exclusively by an electric motor charged from an external source, was headed "100% ELECTRIC RENAULT ZOE". Further text included "Model shown ZOE Dynamique ... The official consumption figures in mpg (l/100km) for the Renault ZOE core range are: Urban N/A; Extra Urban N/A; Combined N/A. The official CO2 emissions for the range are 0. EU Directive and Regulation 692/2008 test environment figures. Fuel consumption and CO2 may vary according to driving styles, road conditions and other factors".
Transport Watch, a private organisation with an interest in UK transport and travel, challenged whether the inclusion of official emissions data, without clarification that the production of the electricity needed to power the vehicle would produce CO2 emissions, was misleading.
Renault UK Ltd said that UK legislation ("the legislation") which came into force in 2001 required advertisers to include in promotional material for petrol and diesel-fuelled cars a statement of the amount of CO2 produced by the vehicle(s) featured in that material. They said that requirement was intended to introduce transparency and to encourage car manufacturers to reduce the amount of CO2 produced by their cars. In 2013 that legislation was updated to include 100% electric and electric hybrid cars; the statement "The official CO2 emissions for the range are 0" in the ad was intended to fulfil that legal requirement. They highlighted that there was no other reference to the vehicle's CO2 emissions in the ad.
Renault said the average consumer was aware that they could reduce their impact on the environment by saving electricity, because they understood that the generation of electricity produced CO2, and therefore using electricity had some impact on the environment. They argued that that was particularly well understood by those who were considering purchasing an electric vehicle. They considered that consumers would therefore understand that a statement that an electric vehicle produced no CO2 emissions would relate specifically to the CO2 emissions emitted by the vehicle itself rather than relating to CO2 generated in the production of the electricity used to power the vehicle. They pointed out that ads for petrol and diesel-fuelled vehicles stated the CO2 emitted from the vehicle whilst in use rather than taking into account any of the emissions generated during the production of the fuel. The average consumer understood that that figure did not include emissions generated during the production of the fuel and would not expect an emissions figure for an electric vehicle to do so either. Notwithstanding that, Renault considered it would not be possible for advertisers of electric vehicles to state the amount of CO2 emitted in the production of the electricity needed to power a vehicle because it would depend on many factors which were beyond their control, including how the electricity was generated.
Renault said it was important to note that the legislation required that promotional material for electric vehicles include a statement of the vehicle's CO2 emissions (i.e. zero); if it had been considered such a statement would mislead or confuse consumers, that legal requirement would not have been created. They said the UK Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA), which was responsible for enforcing the legislation, had published a Guidance Note on the legislation. The Guidance advised that it was necessary for promotional material for electric vehicles to declare the CO2 emissions figures, albeit that the results would be "0". Renault said the VCA had not considered it necessary to advise that the CO2 emissions statement should be qualified to state that it related to the vehicle's emissions whilst driving.
Renault said that the sentence "Fuel consumption and CO2 may vary according to driving styles, road conditions and other factors" had been included in the ad in order to be particularly cautious, but they recognised that it was not required and did not intend to use it again in advertising for the ZOE. They intended to use the statement "CO2 while driving: 0" in future ads.
The ASA noted that legislation required advertisers to include a statement about the CO2 emissions produced by vehicles whilst in motion, including in ads for 100% electric and hybrid electric vehicles, but that the legislation did not require that ads include an explicit statement that the emissions figure related to the emissions produced whilst the vehicle was being driven. We noted the ad did not include any particular focus or emphasis on the vehicle's CO2 emissions; the relevant information was included only as a statement in the small print.
We considered the average consumer was likely to understand that, whilst 100% electric cars did not generate CO2 emissions whilst being driven, CO2 was emitted during the production of the electricity used to power them. We also accepted that consumers would be familiar with the idea that emissions figures for petrol/diesel vehicles related only to the emissions generated from the combustion of the fuel whilst the car was in motion and did not take into account the emissions generated during the production of those fuels. In that context, we considered consumers would understand that the statement in the ad that "The official CO2 emissions for the range are 0" related specifically to emissions generated whilst the vehicle was being driven. We therefore concluded the claim was not misleading to consumers.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising), 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), 11.1 11.1 The basis of environmental claims must be clear. Unqualified claims could mislead if they omit significant information. 11.4 11.4 Marketers must base environmental claims on the full life cycle of the advertised product, unless the marketing communication states otherwise, and must make clear the limits of the life cycle. If a general claim cannot be justified, a more limited claim about specific aspects of a product might be justifiable. Marketers must ensure claims that are based on only part of the advertised product's life cycle do not mislead consumers about the product's total environmental impact. and 11.7 11.7 Marketing communications must not mislead consumers about the environmental benefit that a product offers; for example, by highlighting the absence of an environmentally damaging ingredient if that ingredient is not usually found in competing products or by highlighting an environmental benefit that results from a legal obligation if competing products are subject to that legal obligation. (Environmental claims), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.