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29 July 2020

British Gas at boiling point: ASA rules BOXT breached CAP codes with misleading price comparison claims

On 15 July 2020, the Advertising Standards Agency (“ASA”) published its ruling on BOXT’s advertising campaign following British Gas’ claim that the advert was misleading. Three issues were investigated; one of which was upheld.

The complaint related to two separate adverts: a video on YouTube; and a TV advertisement for the heating company BOXT. The advertisements were published in October and November 2019. 

British Gas challenged both advertisements on the basis that a voiceover in the ads stated:

Listen up, if you’re thinking of replacing your boiler with British Gas, you might want to come a bit closer. BOXT can install your boiler the next day and a boiler from BOXT costs on average … actually you may want to turn the sound up too … £1217 less than the same one from British Gas. BOXT are also rated Britain’s number one heating company on Trustpilot. So don’t buy a new boiler from anyone else until you’ve checked BOXT, you’d be a fool to yourselves. BOXT, faster, cheaper, trustier."

British Gas challenged whether the references to installation and price comparisons in the advert were misleading. A member of the public also challenged whether BOXT’s Trustpilot claim misleadingly implied a comparison against British Gas.

BOXT response and ASA decision

Regarding installation, BOXT said they guaranteed next-day installation if the purchase took place before the cut-off point of 3pm, which was highlighted in the footer of their website home page. They further stated that if their website showed no availability for next-day installation, customers could call them as they had many engineers on standby to ensure customers received next-day installation.

The ASA concluded that whilst next day installation was subject to availability the evidence demonstrated that BOXT had sufficient measures in place to ensure consumers that chose next day installation received it, therefore the claim against BOXT was not upheld.

With regards to pricing claims, BOXT commissioned a third party to carry out market research via a mystery shopping programme. From this, a spreadsheet was created showing an average saving of £1,217.73 compared to British Gas boilers. However, the ASA noted that the spreadsheet only contained one type of boiler and many others had not been included in the comparisons, so the evidence was insufficient to support the claim. They held the claim was misleading and breached CAP codes 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors) and 3.39 (Price comparisons).

In relation to the Trustpilot reviews, it was held that consumers would understand the claim as separate to the comparison claims made against British Gas, as there was no reference to the competitor in that segment of the advertisement. Furthermore, BOXT were the top-rated company under the category of ‘heating services’ on Trustpilot, so the claim was not misleading and not upheld.

As part of the ruling, the ASA warned BOXT that the adverts must not appear again in the form complained of.

Comment

The ASA’s ruling in this case highlights the importance for brands to ensure they do not make comparative pricing claims unless they have sound evidence to support those claims. The threshold of this evidence is considered to be high – as demonstrated in this case, an independent third-party research assessment was considered insufficient.


For more information, please contact Anna Rogers.

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