This article provides advice on comparisons within the vacuum cleaner market, leading claims, consumer surveys and allergy claims. Marketers wishing to know more about substantiation in terms of suction power, pick up performance and ‘powerful’ claims should see our guidance on Vacuum Cleaners: Substantiation and Power.
- IEC and British Standards
- ‘Leading’, ‘number one’ and ‘best’ claims
- Consumer surveys and consumer testing
- Asthma and allergy claims
- Environmental claims
- Pricing and promotions
IEC and British Standards
Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) understands that there are various tests that can be performed for vacuum cleaners, and that common tests are IEC (a global organisation that prepares and publishes international standards) dust removal tests and British Standard tests.
Whilst there is no requirement under the Code to use IEC/BS tests, they have historically been accepted by CAP as substantiation for vacuum cleaner marketers (for example, Grey Technology Ltd, 8 January 2020). Any test that is used should be representative of domestic use and should use a sound methodology. See Vacuum Cleaners: Substantiation and Power for more.
Any comparisons between products, even if implied, should be substantiated with strong evidence. In addition, comparisons with identifiable competitors should be fully verifiable; marketers must provide a signpost to their data so that competitors and consumers can verify the claims in the ad – see guidance on verifiability on how to do this. Generally, any comparison should be between the same class of vacuum cleaner, e.g. cylinder vs cylinder, upright vs upright, unless it’s made very clear in the ad.
In 2020, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated a Vax ad that stated “Proven to clean carpets better than the UK’s top 10 bestselling cordless vacuums*” with smaller text beneath that said “*Top-20 market data Jan-Dec 2018 (by sales volume)”. Dyson challenged whether this comparison was misleading because it had not included the Dyson V11 cordless vacuum, which was launched in March 2019. However, the ASA considered that, though the Dyson V11 had featured on many top ten lists since, the ad made clear the basis of the comparison (and the date it was based on), and furthermore, the data used for the claim was the most recent data available, and was still relevant to the ad. The complaint was not upheld (Vax Ltd, 1 April 2020).
See also guidance on Comparisons: Identifiable Competitors.
‘Leading’, ‘Number one’ and ‘Best’ claims
Any “leading”, “No 1”, “best” or similar claims are also likely to be taken as a comparison against identifiable competitors. As above, marketers are reminded that claims of this type need to be verifiable. See below for specific advice about these claims:
In line with rule 3.9, qualifications may clarify claims but should not contradict the overall impression given by the headline claim. For instance, the ASA considered a qualification BSH used in their ad misleading. The ad implied that the product could clean an entire house on a single charge, whereas the qualification stated that this was based only on hard floors (BSH Home Appliances Ltd, 4 July 2018).
Consumer surveys and consumer testing
Whilst marketers are free to use consumer surveys and testing in their ads, they are reminded that their methodology should be sound. Marketers should ensure that they do not use consumer surveys/testing to support objective claims capable of substantiation – for instance “8 out of 10 people said the vacuum cleaner lasted for 5 hours on one charge” – which instead require robust evidence.
Asthma and allergy claims
If making specific claims about allergies, marketers are reminded they need to hold robust evidence, likely in the form of human clinical trials – however, marketers should be aware that claims that vacuum cleaners can ‘treat’ or ‘prevent’ allergies or allergic reactions as a result of the removal of allergens may render the product a medical device. In such cases, the device will need to be certified with an appropriate CE Marking from a Notified Body. In the first instance, marketers wishing to make these types of claims contact the MHRA. See also Health: Medical Devices.
Furthermore, ads should not imply all allergy/asthma sufferers can benefit from the product if this is not the case, nor exaggerate the effect of a cleaner – for example “cut out the misery of asthma”.
See Health: Allergy Claims for more.
Marketers are reminded that any environmental claims about their vacuum cleaning products need to adhere to Section 11: Environmental Claims. Specifically, the basis of all environmental claims should be made clear (rule 11.1) and the claim should be based on the entire life cycle of the product (11.4). In terms of the latter, this means that advertisers cannot describe a vacuum cleaner as (for instance) ‘eco friendly’, unless every single element of the construction, transportation, use and disposal of the product can be considered environmentally friendly. The rules in this area can be complex so advertisers review guidance at www.asa.org.uk/environment.
Pricing and promotions
Marketers wishing to make price claims or run promotions are encouraged to view the following guidance:
Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
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