This article provides advice on evidence and substantiation for objective claims, including performance claims. For information on comparisons, surveys, allergy claims, environmental claims and pricing, marketers should read Vacuum Cleaners: General guidance.
Marketers should hold evidence for all objective claims in their ads. This includes any implied visual claims.
In terms of cleaning power claims, marketers should hold appropriate evidence which should reflect typical domestic conditions, unless made clear in the ad (see below).
Marketers should also be aware that general claims about the functions of their products should be truthful and not mislead – for instance, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint about the claim “includes an instant release wand; with a total 13.8 metre reach” because in actuality, the length of the hose was much shorter (Dyson Ltd, 20 November 2019).
In addition, marketers should not exaggerate the capabilities of their product. In 2018, GTech made a claim which stated “The dust cloud when you empty the cylinder. History” – however, the ASA saw no evidence that the product could be emptied without creating a dust cloud (Grey Technology Ltd, 7 April 2021).
Advertisers should not use terms that are unlikely to be familiar to audiences if the inclusion of the term is likely to mislead. For instance, in a Vax ad, the advertiser used the term “wilton” in a qualification (“based on pick up performance on wilton…”). The ASA concluded that consumers were unlikely to be familiar with the term, which contributed to the ASA upholding the complaint, stating that those seeing the ad were unlikely to ascertain that the performance claim related to carpets only, rather than all surface types (Vax Ltd, 19 June 2019).
- Suction power and ‘pick up performance’ claims
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 example, Grey Technology Ltd, 7 April 2021). Any test that is used should be representative of domestic use and should use sound methodology.
CAP understands that there is some disagreement in the vacuum cleaner sector as to the validity of suction power testing for vacuum cleaners and the role it plays in determining the overall power of a product – some manufacturers/sellers believe that suction power does not link to cleaning power, and some believe that it does. Whilst suction power tests are not a requirement of the Code, advertisers are free to use these tests as part of a body of evidence for their products.
CAP also understands that there is no standardised testing for effectiveness in picking up larger debris, such as outdoor debris or food particles. In 2018, Gtech addressed concerns about larger debris tests by providing additional testing (Grey Technology Ltd, 8 January 2020). Whilst this type of testing is by no means an ASA requirement, further tests can be included within a larger body of evidence provided the evidence is robust and the methodology is sound.
Marketers are reminded that specific tests (such as pick up tests) on specific surfaces may not be sufficient to support a general or absolute claim about the power of a vacuum cleaner in isolation.
- ‘Powerful’ claims
Consumers are likely to infer that the most powerful vacuum cleaner has the best dust removal ability, so “powerful” claims should generally be supported by robust tests to demonstrate the products cleaning ability, which may include suction power and dust removal tests. Marketers are reminded that they should not mislead on suction power by mentioning input wattage, i.e. “powerful 1500w suction”, unless they can prove the wattage is directly related to the performance of the product.
In 2017, the ASA investigated a Vax ad which stated the Vax Blade cordless product was “as powerful as a corded vacuum”. Vax provided dust and dirt pink up tests – however, the ASA considered that Vax were effectively making a whole market comparison, and, in the absence of robust testing on all surfaces, the claim was misleading (Vax Ltd, 19 June 2019).
- Charging and run time
Marketers should not make claims such as “clean your whole house in XX minutes” or “one charge lasts for XX minutes” if they do not have evidence to substantiate the claims.
The time stated should be representative (unless otherwise stated), and if the claimed run time is based on certain floor types, marketers should not use general claims, and should instead make clear the run time is based on a specific material. In 2018, the ASA investigated the claim “there’s nothing to stop you cleaning the whole house in a single charge”. Though the qualification made clear that the claim was based on hard floors on the lowest setting, the ASA considered the headline claim implied consumers could clean their whole house in one charge, which would typically contain a mixture of floor materials. As such, the claim was misleading (BSH Home Appliances Ltd, 4 July 2018).
The ASA also investigated the claims “40 minute run-time” and “clean two average UK homes on one 4-hour charge” for a Gtech AirRam Mk 2 ad. Whilst the advertiser provided sufficient evidence to show that the product could clean two homes on one charge, they could not substantiate the “40 minute run time” claim. From reviewing Gtech’s tests, the ASA found that on carpet alone, the run time was closer to 30-35 minutes (depending on the test). As Gtech could only substantiate the claim for optimal circumstances, the claim was found to be misleading (Grey Technology Ltd, 7 April 2021).
In contrast, Bosch managed to substantiate the claims “continuous runtime” and “infinite runtime” due to the fact that the product came with two batteries, and Bosch had evidence that the batteries could be charged fully in the time it took to fully use the other battery. Therefore, it could evidence that product could be used continuously without running out of power (BSH Home Appliances Ltd, 13 March 2019).
See also Vacuum Cleaners: General.
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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