Adverts for British Gas have been banned for being misleading.
The ads about the HomeCare service, which first aired in February, generated 24 complaints from customers.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) deemed that the advert was misleading for suggesting that emergency callouts were available to all customers at short notice.
Over 87% of the complaints said they had either been waiting for up to three weeks for an emergency callout or were informed that one could not be provided due to severe limitations on services because of the COVID-19 pandemic and strike action.
Thirteen customers told the ASA that they had been waiting several months for an annual boiler service or were told that one could not be provided because of COVID or strike reasons.
British Gas said they were subject to extensive industrial action from January to March 2021 and, coupled with the pandemic, that meant that some customers had to wait longer than they would have liked for a visit from an engineer.
The TV ads had been commissioned and recorded before the third lockdown and the full impact of industrial action became clear and they added that a range of measures were implemented to help customers, including paying for customers to buy heaters up to a value of £50 or to cover the cost of transport to a friend’s or relative’s house.
A British Gas spokeswoman said: “We’re disappointed at the outcome and are seeking an independent review of the council’s decision, which is contrary to the original ASA recommendations and Clearcast’s views.
“We actually completed more emergency and vulnerable customer visits in the first quarter of this year compared to the first quarter last year, despite COVID and industrial action which has now ended – seeing over half a million customers in total.
“We know there will have been some customers who felt let down by our decision to push back non-essential services, which was necessary to protect customers and colleagues as we worked under the Government’s COVID restrictions at the time.
“We have since caught up on any non-urgent appointments and are up to date with urgent appointments as our engineers continue to work around the clock to look after our customers.”
The ASA has also banned an Alpro advert for its almond milk, which made a misleading environmental claim.
The poster advertised a range of dairy-free milk alternatives that were seen on the side of a bus in October 2020 and read “Next stop. Your recipe to a healthier planet!” and “Good for the planet, Good for you!”.
A complainant, who believes commercial almond farming causes environmental damage, challenged whether the claim “Good for the planet” was misleading and could be substantiated.
Alpro said consumers would understand that the claims “Recipe for a healthier planet” and “Good for the planet” meant that plant-based products had a lower environmental impact than alternative dairy-based products.
Although almonds need more water than soy or oats, the impact on land use and greenhouse gas emissions remains very small, and the environmental impact of almond drinks is significantly lower than that of cow milk, it told the ASA.
The ASA said it understands that the almonds used by Alpro are not sourced from areas of the world where almond production could have a negative environmental impact.
But it said advertising rules require that the basis of environmental claims must be clear and that unqualified claims can mislead if they omit significant information.
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