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Product: Household (Garden Products)
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10, 15.2, 15.3, 15.4, 15.5, 15.6, 15.7, 15.8
The advertisement was seen in a Lidl brochure and featured the image of man cutting grass with a petrol lawnmower. A caption above the image said:
“Parkside Petrol Lawnmower.
• Environmentally friendly – effective silencer system and reduced exhaust emissions.
• Height-adjustable handle.”
Below this was a table containing a list of the product’s specifications, as well as the price.
The complainant objected to the first bullet point contained in the advertisement which read “Environmentally friendly – effective silencer system and reduced exhaust emissions”. The complainant said that petrol engines are not in any way environmentally friendly and that although this may produce less pollution than a similar motor, it is still producing pollution. The complainant therefore believed the claim “environmentally friendly” to be flagrantly untrue and misleading.
The advertisers respectfully submitted that the statement in their brochure was a qualified claim within the meaning of section 15.3 of the ASAI Code. They said the “Environmentally friendly” claim pertained directly to the reduced exhaust emissions and effective silencer system aspects of the petrol lawnmower only, rather than the petrol lawnmower as a whole product. They advised that this was illustrated by the fact that the wording ‘Environmentally friendly’ was in an individual bullet point in the advertisement with a direct link in the form of a hyphen to the ‘effective silencer system and reduced exhaust emissions’ text. The advertisers said they noted the complainant recognised that this sentence should be read as one line as the complainant referenced the sentence in full in their complaint and refer to it as, ‘the first line in the description’.
The advertisers pointed out that Code Section 15.3 stipulates that qualified claims may be acceptable if advertisers can demonstrate that their product provides an improvement in environmental terms, against their own previous products. They said they had engaged with the product supplier in relation to this claim and that the supplier had advised that the motor in this product fulfilled the newest EU Regulation (EU 2016/1628) Stage 5 Non-Road Emissions Standard which set tighter limits on emissions. In addition, the advertisers said that the supplier had advised this model was more environmentally friendly than older models which only met Stage 2 of the regulation and thus had poorer emissions.
The advertisers said with relation to the effective silencer, it was submitted that this was considered to be more environmentally friendly as the noise produced by the model was less than the legislative permissible limit. In accordance with EU Directive 2000/14/EC (transposed in Ireland as S.I. No. 632/2001), the permissible sound level in decibels/ 1pW is 96 in accordance with Stage I. The advertisers said that the supplier had confirmed that this model had a noise level of 94.5. They said not only did this model comply with the legislative standards but that it actually went beyond this to reduce noise pollution, thus evidencing a more environmental aspect of product.
In conclusion, the advertisers said the language ‘environmentally friendly’ had been stated in relation to specific aspects of the product, namely the effective silencer and reduced emissions, which go beyond the requirements of the legislative standards and demonstrate an improvement in environmental terms.
By way of substantiation, the advertisers included their correspondence with the supplier regarding the matter and excerpts of the referenced EU Regulation and EU Directive.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
The Committee considered that the term ‘environmentally friendly’ was an absolute term that therefore could not be qualified or conditional. While they noted that the product description stated “effective silencer system and reduced exhaust emissions”, the Committee considered that this indicated that the product had a lower impact than previous products. They had not seen evidence to demonstrate that a fossil fuel powered product did not cause environmental damage. In the circumstances considered that the advertisement was likely to mislead and therefore in breach of Sections 4.1 and 15.2 of the Code.
Action Required: The advertisement should not reappear in its current form.