Ad description

A national press ad and a website for Vax, an electrical goods and cleaning products manufacturer, seen on 13 August 2017, promoted the Vax blade cordless 24v vacuum cleaner.

a. The national press ad featured the headline claim “AS POWERFUL AS A CORDED VACUUM*”. Smaller text at the bottom of the page stated “*Based on pick up performance on wilton, tested on BS EN 60312 in boost mode”.

b. The website, featured the claim stated “AS POWERFUL AS A CORDED VACUUM”. Smaller text at the bottom of the page stated “*Based on pick up performance on wilton, tested on BS EN 60312 in boost mode”.


Dyson challenged whether the claim “As Powerful as a corded vacuum” was misleading and could be substantiated.


Vax Ltd provided a comparison table which included the declared Eco Grade on the mandatory EU Energy label for vacuum cleaners for dust removal on wilton carpets for 20 corded vacuums. They said wilton carpet was the standard carpet specified in both IEC and BS/EN performance test standards for vacuum cleaners as well as EU regulations. They provided the same results of pick-up performance on hard floors.

Vax said that because the Energy label was an EU-wide regulation, backed up by a harmonised international test standard, it was the most authoritative and practical way of accurately comparing the cleaning performance across a wide range of vacuum cleaner products.

Vax provided independent test data from a product from the assembly line. The data showed that the product achieved 89.1 for dirt pick-up performance on carpet which corresponded to a "B" grade in accordance with the relevant EU directive regarding the energy labelling of vacuum cleaners. The data also showed that the Vax Blade achieved a 104.2 for dirt pick-up performance on hard floors which corresponded to a grade "D".

Vax explained that the comparison table included the 20 best-selling vacuum cleaners (including both cylinders and uprights) according to full-year GfK data available in mid-2017. They said the products represented 47.9 of the entire mains-powered market by value. They said the average pick-up dust removal for those products on carpets was 83.3 whereas the Vax blade achieved 89.1.

Vax said that carpet cleaning was more challenging and therefore a more appropriate method of cleaning than hard floor. However, they said it was still possible to conduct a similar comparison on hard-floor cleaning data. They said that they tested the Vax Blade in accordance with by (EU) No 665/2013 and BS EN 60312-1 clause 5.2 and achieved 104.2, which corresponded to a grade D. They said that the average performance of Vax Blade across both carpet and hard floor was 96.7 whereas the average for the 20 best-selling mains powered products was 95.7, which showed that the Vax Blade cleaned as effectively as those products.​

Vax argued that cleaning performance was the most appropriate measure when assessing how "powerful" a vacuum was and provided evidence which they said showed that higher suction power did not equate to better cleaning performance. The evidence included a copy of the ATSM F2607-08 (the standard debris removal test for vacuum cleaners in North America) and comparative examples of suction power test results contrasted against dust removal test results. They said that since the introduction of the EU Energy label and Ecodesign regulation in 2013, whilst there has been a reduction in the typical input power and suction power of a corded vacuum, the typical carpet cleaning ability of vacuums had increased. They said that demonstrated that a vacuum should be measured by its ability to clean, not by its level of suction when assessing its power.

Vax also highlighted a plan by IEC for a standardised testing for larger debris, based on the ability to remove uncooked rice and lentils, or a synthetic equivalent. They said that leading manufacturers had attended meetings regarding the new testing and there were no discussions on the role of suction power or to supplement any other performance tests with suction power.



The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim “As Powerful as a Corded Vacuum” to mean that the Vax Blade was as effective at cleaning as a range of standard corded vacuum cleaners, but would not expect it to be equally effective as all corded vacuum cleaners. Whilst we acknowledged that both ads contained the qualification “based on pick up performance on wilton”, we considered that the word “wilton” was unlikely to be understood by consumers. Further, we considered that the size and placement of the qualifications in small fonts at the bottom of the ads were likely to have been overlooked by consumers. Therefore, consumers would understand the claims to mean that the Vax Blade was as effective at cleaning dust, dirt and debris as a corded vacuum on all surface types.

To support the claim, Vax relied on a comparative testing data on dust pick-up performance on carpets and hard floors of 20 corded vacuums. We noted that those products represented 47.9% of the corded market and were the 20 best-selling mains corded vacuums in 2017. We considered that whilst the comparator products did not represent all of the corded market, it was reasonable for Vax to use the most popular corded products to support the claim “as effective as a corded vacuum”.

We acknowledged that the results showed that, on carpet, the Vax Blade was 89.1 effective in the dust pick up tests. That corresponded to a cleaning performance grade B which was higher than13 of the 20 comparator corded products. We considered this indicated that the Vax Blade was as effective as a corded vacuum at dust pick-up performance on carpets. However, the testing on hard floors showed that the Vax Blade achieved 104.2, which corresponded to a cleaning performance grade of D, which was lower than all of the other comparator corded products.

Notwithstanding that, we noted that Vax had used the standardised IEC dust removal test for vacuum cleaners. The testing included measurements of a vacuum cleaner’s dust removal ability from hard flat floors, floors with crevices and carpets. While those measurements were relevant to a vacuum cleaner’s cleaning ability, we considered that there were other elements, which were not covered under the standardised dust pick-up testing, that consumers would expect a vacuum cleaner to remove from a household such as larger debris, e.g. outdoor debris and food particles.

We understood that there was currently no standardised testing for effectiveness in picking up that kind of larger debris and that there was significant disagreement within the vacuum cleaner industry about the relevant test methods which should be used and, in particular, about what role suction power might play both in overall performance and the removal of larger debris. The evidence submitted by Vax only included dust and dirt pick-up performance testing and did not include suction power testing.

Vax believed that dust pick-up testing was the only relevant factor when determining a vacuum’s cleaning ability to remove dust, dirt and debris. They argued that suction power was not an indicator of the likely performance of a vacuum cleaner, and drove higher energy for no practical purpose. They also highlighted that suction power was not used as a performance measure on the EU energy labelling and eco design requirements for vacuum cleaners, which they argued showed that European lawmakers also did not believe there to be a link between suction power and a vacuum’s cleaning ability, which we understood was a view held by other vacuum cleaner manufacturers. On the other hand, other manufacturers including Dyson argued that a vacuum cleaner functioned solely because it generated the suction power to draw in dust, dirt and debris. They believed that suction power was a key component because it demonstrated a vacuum cleaner’s ability to collect dirt, dust and larger debris whereas dust pick-up performance only measured dust and dirt. Based on that, they therefore believed that a combination of dust pick-up performance and suction power testing was necessary to support the claim.

In that context, we considered that Vax, in making what was effectively an unqualified whole market comparison needed to support that claim with a full range of testing such as a combination of dust pick-up performance and another objective, reproducible and robust form of testing which could demonstrate a vacuum’s cleaning ability to remove larger debris. Alternatively, in the absence of more extensive testing, we considered that a more specific claim which made clear as to what aspect of a vacuum’s cleaning ability the powerful claim related would be likely to prevent consumers being misled.

Because Vax’s evidence did not relate to all surface types as suggested by the claim and only included dust pick-up performance testing, we concluded that the claim “as powerful as a corded vacuum” had not been substantiated, and was 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  3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product.  (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).


The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Vax Ltd to remove the claim "as powerful as a corded vacuum" unless they held adequate dust pick-up performance testing and an alternative robust form of testing which demonstrates a vacuum cleaner's ability to remove larger debris or to use a more specific claim which clearly stated what aspect of a vacuum's cleaning ability the powerful claim related to. We also told them to make clear if a claim only related to one type of surface.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

3.1     3.11     3.33     3.7    

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