The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that an advert for the government’s “green deal” misled householders by implying that energy savings were guaranteed under the scheme.
The TV ad, seen on 28 January, featured TV presenter Oliver Heath knocking on a man’s door and looking around his house.
A voice-over stated, “We’d all like to keep our homes warm and save money on energy bills this winter, but how can you find out if your insulation is thick enough to keep the heat in, or whether a new boiler could save you hundreds of pounds a year? Also see if your home generates its own electricity and hot water. Find out more from TV presenter and energy saving expert Oliver Heath on how to book a Green Deal assessment for your home. To help you stay cosy and save this winter. Go to www.snugandsave.co.uk for more information and tips from Oliver.”
Text on the final frame stated “www.snugandsave.co.uk. Terms and conditions apply, fees apply”.
In addition to this, an advertorial in the national press for the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) Green Deal initiative stated “4-PAGE SPECIAL: SAVE MONEY AND STAY WARM THIS WINTER”.
It provided extensive information about the Green Deal initiative and included claims regarding: the savings that could be made; the Green Deal Finance Plan; the role of the Green Deal assessors; Oliver Heath’s status as an “energy saving expert”; property price increases following “green” home improvements; and the role of wall insulation in older properties.
Crystal Home Improvements made 10 complaints about the campaign, six of which were upheld by the ASA, including the claims in both ads that consumers would save money.
Regarding this particular claim, ASA said they considered the claims “the money that we are saving more than covers any repayments for having the work done” and “lets you pay for some of the upfront costs of the work over time, and is repaid using the savings you can expect to make” in the advertorial.
They understood this to mean that, over time, customers would save money under the Green Deal.
They also considered the claim, “We’d all like to keep our homes warm and save money on energy bills this winter, but how can you find out if your insulation is thick enough to keep the heat in, or whether a new boiler could save you hundreds of pounds a year?”
ASA said this would be interpreted by consumers to mean that savings were guaranteed under the Green Deal initiative.
ASA argued: “Although we understood the first year’s instalment payments could not exceed the first year’s savings and any interest payable on repayments would be at a fixed rate for the whole repayment period, DECC could not guarantee that Green Deal repayments would not exceed savings. Saving calculations were based on what DECC would expect a typical household to save as a result of building improvements and the assumption that energy bills would rise in line with inflation. Because we considered the claims implied that savings were guaranteed, we concluded the ad was misleading.”
Defending the ads, DECC said the ad did not suggest a consumer was guaranteed to make a net saving of money under the Green Deal, but encouraged consumers to find out more.
They said the savings estimates were based on what a typical occupant could expect to see as a result of making the recommended improvements.
They explained that the Green Deal Assessment process informed the householder how improvements to their property would affect their savings in comparison to typical occupation.
They said they did not consider that material information was omitted from the ad, but could not cover all details within a short ad.
ASA has demanded that the ads must not appear in its current form.
ASA has told DECC to ensure they held sufficient evidence for claims made in marketing communications, including saving claims, their ads did not misleadingly imply savings were guaranteed and that ads did not misleadingly give the impression that Green Deal assessments were impartial or give the impression of being a Green Deal testimonial when they related to other schemes or work.