Radio advertising for Ecocem stated:
“Over the past 10 years, a quiet revolution has been taking place in the construction industry. Ecocem next generation cement; the strongest most durable cement in Ireland. Ecocem cement has been used in prestigious projects such as the Aviva Stadium and the Waterford Cable Stayed Bridge. Now available in bags, you too can benefit from the best cement in Ireland at no extra cost. Contact your local builders’ merchants or find us online. Ecocem next generation cement; why settle for anything less?”
The Cement Manufacturers of Ireland (CMI) raised the following objections:
CMI considered the claim that “Ecocem next generation cement” was the strongest cement in Ireland was inaccurate and that no substantiation had been provided. They also stated that the performance of different cements depended on the composition, curing conditions and the concrete mix that was employed and its application.
CMI considered the claim that “Ecocem next generation cement” was the most durable cement in Ireland was inaccurate and that no substantiation had been provided. They also stated that the performance of different cements depended on the composition, curing conditions and the concrete mix that had been employed and its application.
CMI considered that the claim to be ‘…best cement in Ireland’ was misleading and that no objective criteria for the claim had been provided.
Ecocem provided the following response to the issues raised:
Ecocem stated that the strength of a cement was measured in newton per millimetre squared. The higher the number, the stronger the cement. They provided a table to show that their product was certified in the strongest cement class in Ireland according to EN 197-1 Cement and was therefore, the strongest cement in Ireland.
Bagged Cement Ecocem Lagan Quinn Irish Cement
Strength Class 52.5L 42.5N 42.5N 32.5N
Cement Type CEM III/A CEM II/A-L CEM II/A-V CEM II/A-L
They said that their certificate of conformity to prove their cement class was issued by the NSAI and audited on an annual basis. In relation to the strength of their cement they wished to make the following clarification:
• As a 52,5L cement, Ecocem has a low early age strength, but only in relation to a 52,5N cement.
• It is required to have the same early age strength as a 42,5 cement.
• There is no early age requirement for a 32,5 cement.
Ecocem stated that one could argue that the strongest cement would automatically be the most durable, but that in addition their cement also protected from chloride attack, sulphate attack and Alcali Silica reaction. They referred to a recent article from the Farmers Journal on the superior durability of cements containing Ground Granulated Blastfurnace Slag (GGBS). They also provided a link to an article from the UK cement industry on how GGBS improves the durability of concrete.
Ecocem also stated that when a person bought cement, they wanted strength and durability and they considered that their cement had superior strength and superior durability, was easier to use and required less plasticiser. They also provided a Youtube link to a testimonial from Peter McMullen, Senior Lecturer in DIT and world champion plasterer.
They stated that they felt very strongly that a cement that was stronger, longer lasting, easier to use, had lower carbon and was better looking than anything else on the market, without costing the end user more, deserved to be called the best cement in Ireland.
The ASAI obtained independent advice from an expert in the industry. The expert reviewed the details of the case the provided the following advice:
The expert considered that the claim that Ecocem bagged cement (CEM III/A) was ‘the strongest…… cement in Ireland’ was true in respect of bagged cement manufactured in the Republic of Ireland. He stated that the strength of concrete was related, inter alia, to the strength of cement and the cement content. He advised that cement was classified by type and strength class and the higher the strength class of cement, the higher the eventual potential long term strength of concrete for a specific cement content. He also stated that equally, a lower cement content was required for a given concrete strength if a stronger cement was used. He stated that cements were grouped into three strength classes by the relevant standard: Class 32.5, Class 42.5 and Class 52.5. They said that Ecocem bagged cement was the highest category, Class 52.5, at the time of this advertising, whereas other manufacturers placed their bagged product on the market labelled at lower strengths of Class 42.5 and Class 32.5.
The expert also stated that it should be noted that concrete strength developed over time and for practical reasons, there was interest in ‘early strength’ values, typically in respect of strength achieved in the first 3 days. He said that the Ecocem bagged cement had a low early strength and was therefore categorised as Class 52.5L, whereas other manufacturers of cement in Ireland had normal early strength products, 32.5N or 42.5N. Nevertheless, he considered that the Class 52.5 aspect allowed Ecocem to legitimately claim that their bagged cement was the strongest cement in Ireland despite the early age strength performance disadvantage.
In regards to the claim to be the ‘most durable cement in Ireland’, the expert stated that he did not consider that there was evidence to substantiate this claim. He stated that Ecocem tried to draw a direct link (in their response) between ‘durable concrete’ and ‘durable cement’ but that this was not a valid link.
The expert stated that there was a clear distinction between ‘cement’ and ‘concrete’. He advised that cement was a constituent of concrete and was used as the basis of the binder which was formed when cementitious powders are hydrated. He stated that concrete was a composite material essentially composed of stone aggregates, bound together by hydrated cementitious binders. The strength and durability of concrete are both significant issues in construction practice. The durability of concrete was primarily related to its permeability to aggressive agents. The permeability of concrete was related, inter alia, to curing history and inversely related to water/cement ratio. The expert did not consider that the production of the most durable concrete implied inclusion of the most durable cement and stated that concretes of inadequate durability can be constructed despite the use of excellent quality cements.
In regards to shelf life, he considered that the position was the same for Ecocem bagged cement as other bagged cements in Ireland.
The expert stated that the Ecocem bagged cement (CEM III/A) was one of 15 cements for which specific suitability was established for use in concrete specified to Standard I.S. EN 206-1 in Ireland. He said that it was not possible to rank the merits of the different cements in the Standard and therefore it was not possible for one of these 15 cements to claim that the cement was intrinsically ‘the best cement’.
He considered that the selection of the ‘best cement’ for a particular project depended on the specific circumstances of that project and the most desirable properties of the concrete made with the cement. The properties may include, inter alia, local availability of cement supply, rate of strength gain, rate of heat development during hydration, and alkali content of the cement. Given that the relative importance of such properties varied from project to project, he did not consider that it was possible to universally declare in advance which cement is the ‘best cement’.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response together with the advice provided by the independent expert.
Complaint 1 Not Upheld
The Committee noted that the Ecocem bagged cement product had been classed as 52.5L which was the highest strength category at the point in time it was advertised and therefore they did not consider that the advertising claim was in breach of the Code.
Complaint 2 Upheld
The Committee did not consider that Ecocem had provided evidence to substantiate their claim to be the ‘most durable cement’ in Ireland and they therefore considered that the advertising claim was in breach of Sections 2.9 and 2.24 of the Code.
Complaint 3 Upheld
The Committee did not consider that Ecocem had provided evidence to support their claim to be the ‘best cement’ in Ireland and therefore considered the claim to be in breach of Sections 2.9 and 2.24 of the Code.
The Committee reminded advertisers that all claims of this nature needed to be capable of ongoing substantiation against all similar products on the market.
The Complaints Committee told Ecocem not to refer to their cement as the “most durable cement” in Ireland unless they held evidence to substantiate the claim.
The Complaints Committee told Ecocem not to refer to their cement as the “best cement” in Ireland unless they held evidence to substantiate the claim.