A website ad on www.chord.co.uk for the advertiser's audio cables, included a product description for a "Chord Sarum Tuned ARAY streaming cable". Claims included "Tuned ARAY cables appear to dramatically reduce noise levels within the systems they are used in. The result of this is music with extraordinary levels of detail, dynamics and coherence ... because of the way Tuned ARAY works; connecting a Tuned ARAY cable to the streaming device will have a dramatic effect ... Music is simply so much more coherent and involving. This can transform the sound of both WAV and FLAC files and the results with high resolution downloads are simply stunning".
The complainant challenged whether the claims about the performance capabilities of the product were misleading and could be substantiated.
The Chord Company Ltd said their cables were of a specialist nature and were sold by demonstration with customers normally trialling the cables first. They said the cables had been reviewed worldwide and had been tested by their worldwide distributers before they decided to stock the product. They provided copies of a number of positive industry and consumer reviews of their products, some of which were specifically in relation to the Sarum Tuned ARAY streaming cable. They also provided three videos from demonstrations to the public at a hi-fi show in which the audience was asked to raise their hands if they heard a difference in quality between their Ethernet cables and regular Ethernet cables. In each video everyone in the audience raised their hand.
The Chord Company said that the screening and materials used for both conductors and insulation made a big difference to the performance of the cables. They said that regular LAN cables used cheaper conductor materials, insulation and plugs. Their own cables did not use twisted pairs on their bigger LAN cables but instead used fully screened coaxial cables with high quality connectors and their connections were soldered. They provided us with information about the construction differences between their cables and other cables including Cat 5 cables, Cat 5 E cables and Class F and Category 7 cables. The Chord Company said they believed the technical differences between their cables and other standard cables meant that their cables produced superior sound quality.
The Chord Company explained that it was difficult to technically measure the improvement in sound quality which their Ethernet cables produced compared with standard Ethernet cables. They said the difference was by nature subjective, as listening to music was subjective and describing it in words was impossible. They highlighted that one of the challenged claims stated that the cables "appear[ed]" to dramatically reduce noise levels. The Chord Company said the claims were based on comments relayed to them by satisfied customers who would not purchase the product if they could not hear a difference. They said the ad stated that consumers should try the products and that the proof was in the listening.
The ASA considered that the claims in the ad were presented as objective claims that The Chord Company's cables provided better sound quality compared to other cables. Whilst we acknowledged the positive reviews from consumers and industry representatives, we considered that objective claims, such as "connecting a Tuned ARAY cable to the streaming device will have a dramatic effect" and "This can transform the sound of both WAV and FLAC files and the results with high resolution downloads are simply stunning", must be supported by objective testing which demonstrated that the cables provided better sound quality than other cables. Because we had not seen such evidence, we concluded the claims had not been substantiated and were therefore misleading.
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), 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) and 3.11 3.11 Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product. (Exaggeration).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told The Chord Company Ltd not to make objective claims about the performance capabilities of their cables unless they held substantiation.