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Calor stokes fire over heat pump claims

Gas supply giant Calor Gas challenges claims of heat pumps in advertising standards complaint

A dispute over the findings of an investigation into allegations of misleading advertising has been sparked between Calor Gas and ACS Renewable Solutions, after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published its findings.

The investigation was carried out after Calor Gas alleged that an ACS pamphlet promoting air-source heat pumps constituted misleading advertising in November 2010.

The ASA upheld three of five challenges by Calor Gas to claims made by ACS about its products, but whilst the remaining two were not upheld, ACS has been ordered to halt further circulation.

Claims that were found to be misleading were that heat pumps could “reduce your winter fuel bills by 40 per cent”, that they “can be more than 300 per cent more efficient” than conventional gas, LPH or oil-fired systems, and that for every 1 kilowatt of energy used an air source heat pump will generate approximately 3.5 kilowatts of heat.

Challenges that were not upheld were to a claim that heat pump systems would become “more cost efficient” as the cost of conventional fuel rises, and that ACS’s pamphlet did not make clear that consumers’ electricity bills would increase as a result of using the product.

ACS Renewable Solutions claims it aimed the pamphlet at ‘off-grid’ houses which had no current access to a gas supply, but Calor Gas said the complaint was brought to ASA because the company markets gas to off-grid areas too; meaning misleading advertising could unfairly harm their business.

The row was sparked after Calor Gas issued a statement in which it said it “welcomes” the ASA’s decision. In the statement, Paul Blacklock, Head of Strategy for Calor Gas, referred to “dodgy sales tactics” by solar panel companies.

ACS is concerned that the reference amounts to a suggestion that its sales tactics are also “dodgy”. A spokesman for ACS said the statement “[weaves] ACS’s name into a series of criticisms about government policy and the wider renewable energy industry.

“ACS was required to change two absolute statements, and that has been done,” he added.

David Knibbs, managing director of ACS, said: “We are clearly very disappointed with the ASA decision but we accept their rationale and reasoning.  We worked closely with them during this review in order to ensure they understood the complexities of the technology we offer to our customers.”

A spokesman for the Advertising Standards Authority said: “Our ruling has absolutely nothing to do with sales tactics. It’s about the issue of properly substantiating claims with evidence. We hold companies to very high account with their advertising.”

He added that “very few” companies would deliberately make misleading claims in their advertising campaigns.

For full ASA statement CLICK HERE

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