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ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10, 15.1(b), 15.2, 15.5, 15.6
A radio advertisement for Volkswagen included the following statement:
“That's the sound of a quieter, cleaner future led by Volkswagen. Ireland's bestselling car brand. Led by our all electric, carbon neutral ID 3 and ID 4 models and our plug-in hybrid range led by all of you joining us on our way to a zero-carbon future.”
The complainant considered that the claim that the cars were ‘carbon neutral’ was misleading as they did not consider that electric cars were carbon neutral either during their manufacturing process or when they were being charged using electricity that was generated by fossil fuels.
The advertisers stated that both the ID.3 and ID.4 were manufactured and delivered to their Irish retailers with a certified carbon neutral balance. They said that the certification was granted by TUV Nord, an independent regulatory body in Germany and they provided a copy of the ID.3’s certificate and advised that the ID.4 certificate had just been confirmed as the model had only been launched. They said that the certificate applied to the manufacture of the vehicle, the delivery to their European retailers and the first charge of the vehicle as they used 100% green energy. They said that the models in question had no local CO2 emissions as they were fully electric, and they recommend 100% green energy for at home charging and the IONITY public charging network that uses 100% green energy in Ireland. The advertisers also provided a link to information on their carbon-reduction strategy on their website.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted that the certification awarded by the independent body applied to the entire manufacturing process, the initial charge of the vehicle before delivery to the customer and the recycling of the vehicle, excluding the battery, at the end of its lifecycle.
While the Committee noted that the electric vehicles were carbon neutral on delivery to the customer, there was no guarantee that they would continue to be carbon neutral while being charged after delivery. In addition, disposal at end of the life of the battery was not included in the emission sources considered by the independent body that had awarded the certification.
In the circumstances the Committee considered that the claim in the advertisement to be ‘carbon neutral’ went beyond what the certification provided for and therefore the absolute claim ‘carbon neutral’ in the radio advertisement was in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4 and 15.6 of the Code.
The advertisement should not reappear in its current form again
The Complaints Committee advised the advertisers that claims such as ‘Carbon Neutral’ should be appropriately qualified within the advertising.