Airtricity ordered to drop 'green' claim in ads

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ELECTRICITY COMPANY Airtricity has been ordered not to use the term “green electricity” in its advertising, following a complaint by An Bord Gáis to the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI).

ELECTRICITY COMPANY Airtricity has been ordered not to use the term “green electricity” in its advertising, following a complaint by An Bord Gáis to the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI).

An Bord Gáis, which is a competitor with Airtricity in the residential electricity supply market following the removal of the ESB monopoly, complained that the use of the word “green” was misleading because not all Airtricity’s supplies came from renewable resources.

Complaints by An Bord Gáis about Airtricity’s claims in its advertising of the savings which could be gained by switching to Airtricity were also upheld.

Airtricity last month announced it was starting an advertising campaign to “aggressively target the consumer-switching market”.

Its press advertisement carried the headline “Switch to green electricity and save 13 per cent”. The advertisement stated the electricity provided was five times more environmentally friendly than that provided by An Bord Gáis.

Similar claims were made in its radio advertising. In the radio advertisement, children tell the listeners that by switching to Airtricity they can help save “trees”, “bunny rabbits”, “our future” and “a lot of money”.

In its submission to the ASAI, An Bord Gáis pointed out that 21 per cent of Airtricity’s supply did not come from renewable or “green” sources, but was generated through burning fossil fuels.

The ASAI upheld the complaint that the use of the term “green electricity” was not appropriate because not all Airtricity’s supply came from renewable resources.

In relation to the 13 per cent savings claim, An Bord Gáis claimed the advertising suggested this was an unconditional saving, whereas in fact the savings ranged from 5 to 13 per cent on ESB prices. The ASAI agreed the 13 per cent saving was the maximum that could be achieved and only if certain payment choices were made.

An Bord Gáis also complained that the advertisement did not make it clear that the saving only related to ESB supply rates and not to other charges such as standing charges and levies.

The ASAI accepted the radio advertisement was misleading in this regard because it referred to “electricity costs” which consumers could understand to mean the total cost of the bill. However it found the print advertisement which referred to “electricity prices” was not likely to mislead.

The claim that Airtricity’s electricity was five times more environmentally friendly than that of An Bord Gáis was also found to be misleading, because consumers could take the claim to relate to all the electricity supplied where it in fact only related to the renewable energy portion.

The ASAI acknowledged that Airtricity had now amended its advertising.

(c) The Irish Times

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