A radio ad for Smart Metering Communications Body Ltd, marketing energy smart meters. It featured a voice-over that stated, "This is Gaz and this is Leccy. Gaz and Leccy are currently out of control. They run around our homes all day burning energy. But we don't know exactly how much they're really using, or what the bill will be. It's crazy. That's why over the next 6 years every home in Britain can upgrade to a smart meter. At no extra cost. This will let every one of us see exactly how much energy we're using in pounds and pence. It's time to get Gaz and Leccy under control. For more information on the smart meter roll out go to smartenergygb.org".
The complainant, who understood that the cost for the smart meter would be charged through consumers' energy bills, challenged whether the claim "At no extra cost" was misleading and could be substantiated.
Smart Metering Communications Body Ltd stated that a consumer choosing to upgrade to a new smart meter would not incur any additional cost and referred to the guidance set out by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. They stated that, as with the current arrangements for conventional meters, consumers would pay for the cost of their smart meters through their energy bills. They considered that consumers would interpret the claim "At no extra cost" to mean that they would not incur a further charge if they decided to upgrade their traditional meter to a smart meter. Furthermore, since the arrangements for funding the smart meters were the same as for the traditional meters, Smart Metering Communications Body considered that it was not necessary to include details regarding the way in which they were funded. However, they pointed out that the ad included the address of their website, which informed consumers that "Under current arrangements we pay for the cost our meters and their maintenance through our energy bills, and this will be the same for a smart meter".
The Radio Advertising Clearance Centre (RACC) stated that the advertiser had provided them with evidence that showed that consumers would not be charged separately for a smart meter. They understood that consumers would not have to pay an installation fee for the smart meter or have an extra charge on their bill because they had chosen to upgrade. The RACC referred to the claim "That's why over the next 6 years every home in Britain can upgrade to a smart meter. At no extra cost". They considered that this would be understood by consumers to mean that they had a choice to upgrade and install a smart meter at no additional cost.
The ASA acknowledged that Smart Metering Communications Body was promoting the benefits of the government's roll-out of smart meters. We noted that consumers who decided to upgrade to a smart meter would not incur an additional cost for its installation or an extra charge on their energy bill, but would pay for the meter through their energy bills. We understood that conventional meters were also funded under these arrangements. Therefore, we concluded that, because consumers would not be charged further fees for upgrading their meter to a new smart meter and that there would be no changes to how consumers would be charged for their household meter, the claim "At no extra cost" had been substantiated and was unlikely to mislead.
We investigated under BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Advertisements must not mislead consumers 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 consumers need in context to make informed decisions about whether or how to buy a product or service. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead consumers depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the advertisement is constrained by time or space, the measures that the advertiser takes to make that information available to consumers by other means. (Misleading Advertising) and 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is 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.