A TV ad and a radio ad for Smart Energy GB, seen and heard in September 2020:
a. The TV ad stated “Smart meters are helping Britain save more energy, and helping you save on your bills too”.
b. The radio ad stated “A revolution is happening in Sandra’s kitchen … her smart meter is doing something extraordinary, helping Britain save more energy, and helping her save money too …”.
IssueThe complainants, who understood smart meters in and of themselves did not save consumers money, challenged whether the claims “helping you save on your bills too” in ad (a) and “helping you save money too” in ad (b), were misleading.
ResponseSmart Metering Communications Body Ltd t/a Smart Energy GB explained that the main benefit to consumers of installing a smart meter was the provision of direct, real-time information about their energy usage at any given time. Consumers could then use that information to reduce their energy consumption, in turn decreasing their spending on energy bills. They said the claims in ads (a) and (b) were qualified and that the ads did not make absolute claims about smart meters automatically saving consumers money. They said there was a distinction between a claim such as “saving you money” – which implied that smart meters saved money automatically – and “helping you save money” – which implied that smart meters assisted in saving money. They said the ads did not go as far as claiming that the meters performed that function in and of themselves, automatically. They said consumers would understand the phrase “helping you” meant that some kind of action on their part was necessary to obtain the benefit stated in the ads. Clearcast said the ad used the word “helping” to convey that smart meters could assist in reducing viewers’ energy bills, rather than reducing energy bills as part of the way they functioned. They said that smart meters gave viewers real-time information about energy consumption, allowing them to monitor and control their energy usage, helping them to save money. Radiocentre said they endorsed Smart Energy GB's response to the complaints.
AssessmentNot upheld The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claims “…helping you save on your bills too” in ad (a) and “…her smart meter is doing something extraordinary … helping her save money too” in ad (b) to mean that, through the use of smart meters, they could reduce their energy consumption, and reduce their spending on household energy bills as a result. We considered the appearance of a smart meter display on a work surface in ad (a) contributed to the impression that consumers could monitor their energy usage. We considered that consumers would likely understand the use of the word “helping” in the ads to mean that smart meters could assist in decreasing consumers’ energy usage and spending and that they would understand the meters did not actively reduce household energy consumption in and of themselves. We therefore concluded that the claims in ads (a) and (b) were not misleading. We investigated ad (a) and ad (b) under BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.12 3.12 Advertisements must not mislead by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product or service. (Exaggeration), but did not find them in breach.
No further action necessary.