On 9 March 2023, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) took the rare step of issuing an Enforcement Notice against any advertiser distributing ads for electric plug-in mini-heaters that claim – directly or indirectly – that such products are a viable alternative to central heating.
As noted in our previous blog, the ASA recently banned a number of ads which suggested that electric plug-in mini heaters would save consumers money while quickly and efficiently heating a room. The regulator considers such claims to be materially misleadingly and a clear-cut breach of the mandatory CAP Code that all UK advertisers must comply with. The watchdog has urged all advertisers operating in this area to take immediate action to ensure that all advertising complies with the rules.
The ASA has threatened the use of a referral to its legal backstop: Trading Standards, should any advertiser fail to comply with its requirements. It is very rare for the ASA to refer an advertiser to Trading Standards, such measures being reserved for only the most serious issues of non-compliance where the ‘teeth’ of court fines and criminal penalties are necessary to secure a level playing field for consumers. This is because the ASA itself does not have the power to issue fines or impose criminal sanctions.
The continued focus in this area alongside greenwashing claims, shows that the UK advertising regulators are on the look out to protect consumers during the cost-of-living crisis.