JML - Two Issues Upheld by ASA
A website for JML, www.jmldirect.com, seen on 24 November 2019, featured a page for an instant heater. Text on the page stated “Can save you over 50% on heating…Instant Heater lets you save 50% on heating because it costs half as much to run. A gas heater costs £1.20 for every hour it’s switched on – while the Instant Heater uses less than 28 pence”. Further text stated “In an outdoor breeze, the Instant Heater can pump out an extra 10 degrees of heat more than gas can”.
John Mills Ltd (JML) said they made the claim on the basis of a comparison between a gas heater rated 4.2 kW/h on the maximum heat seating compared with the Instant Heater on its maximum heat setting, using the average UK electricity cost of 14.37p per kWh. They also provided a spreadsheet which they said compared the Instant Heater with the most popular types of home gas heater and the cost of different compatible gas cylinder types with various gas burn rates. They believed the spreadsheet showed that the Instant Heater produced a saving of between 45% and 65% against those gas heaters. JML said they would amend the claim to “Can save you over 50% when compared to mobile gas heaters” and link that claim to further text which stated “in comparison to a standard home has heater (4.2kw) with a 15kg gas cylinder" and additional text which stated “Instant Heater could let you save 50% on heating because it costs approximately half as much to run. A gas heater could cost £1.20 for every hour it’s switched on”. 2. JML said the key feature of the product was the radiant heat rays that heated consumers directly. They provided a video which they said showed a real-time demonstration of the difference in heat in a comparative test between the Instant Heater and a gas heater, in which both heaters were exposed to a 15 km/h wind speed using a fan in a warehouse of greater size than the average house-sized room and where air space was so large that the heating effect on the air was negligible, as it would be outdoors. They said they conducted the test this way because they felt they could control the environment much easier indoors than outdoors. They provided a declaration, from a consulting engineer who conducted the testing, which stated that the Instant Heater continued to remain hot because the filament was protected by a quartz tube and it was therefore still able to emit radiant heat. However, with the gas heater, the flame was pushed away from the metal grill by the wind, meaning the grill cooled and the amount of radiant heat emitted was reduced.
Upheld The ASA noted the comparative claim “Can save you over 50% on heating” appeared in a list of bullet points above the price of the Instant Heater on the page. The claim linked to no further text and consequently we considered that the basis of the comparison was not clear. While we recognised that the claim was made again further down the page above text which referenced a gas heater, the text appeared far below the “add to basket” icon, which meant that consumers need not have read that further text in order to enquire further about the product. As such, and in the absence of any further information alongside the claim within the bullet-pointed list, we considered that consumers would understand it to mean that the Instant Heater would produce a saving of 50% in heating costs compared with gas heaters and other electric heaters. We therefore expected JML to hold evidence, including actual examples demonstrating that this level of saving had been produced by the Instant Heater. We assessed the evidence provided by JML. Notwithstanding the fact that the evidence only compared the Instant Heater against gas heaters, we considered it was insufficient to demonstrate the savings made. The spreadsheet compared the Instant Heater against four different types of gas heater, and while we acknowledged JML’s comments that they compared the product against the most popular gas heaters, given the wide range of gas heaters available to consumers, we did not consider that a comparison against four was adequate. The spreadsheet also showed the differing power levels offered by each heater. However, it did not show the temperature produced by each of those levels. We did not therefore know whether the power levels chosen for each comparison produced the same amount of heat, so we did not consider the comparison reliable for that reason. JML did not provide any examples demonstrating that consumers had saved 50% on heating costs using the Instant Heater, and while we welcomed their willingness to make changes to the ad, we did not consider those changes sufficient to demonstrate that the heater would produce a saving of 50% on heating costs. In light of the above, we concluded that the claim “Can save you over 50% on heating” had not been substantiated and was therefore misleading.
breach. 2. Upheld We considered that consumers would understand from the claim “In an outdoor breeze, the Instant Heater can pump out an extra 10 degrees more heat than gas can” that compared with gas heaters, the Instant Heater would produce 10 degrees more heat in an outdoor environment when subjected to breezy conditions. We therefore expected JML to hold evidence which demonstrated the Instant Heater's performance against gas heaters under those conditions. The testing provided by JML showed that they only compared the Instant Heater against one gas heater, which we did not consider sufficient to demonstrate that the same results would be produced when compared against the range of gas heaters available to consumers. The testing had also been conducted inside, using a stationary fan that generated a set wind speed and direction, which we considered was not a reliable test to demonstrate the heater’s capabilities in real outdoor breeze conditions, where the speed, strength and direction of a breeze might change at any given time. The Instant Heater was also fixed to a wall, meaning that it was only likely to be capable of generating heat to the environment in front of it. However, the gas heater was standalone, meaning that it could give off heat in a 360 degree angle. The results, however, were only captured from one angle, meaning that the gas heater could have produced a greater amount of heat from another angle. We could therefore not be sure that the testing produced reliable results and we had also not been provided with any documentary evidence which demonstrated that the product was capable of producing 10 degrees more heat than gas heaters. Given the limitations of the testing, we considered that it had not been demonstrated that the Instant Heater was able to produce 10 degrees more heat in an outdoor environment when subjected to breezy conditions. We therefore concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading. On that point, we investigated the claim under CAP Code.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told John Mills Ltd to ensure that they did not make savings and performance claims unless they held robust evidence which substantiated those claims.