Thursday, 6 April 2017

SMART METERS - ADVERTISING WATCH DOG RULING ANNOUNCED

Regular readers may remember my article on smart meters a few weeks ago. In it I referred to a series of adverts on TV which proclaimed how accurate they were. Other articles such as this one and this one add to the picture. As a result I decided to complain to the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) which is supposed to regulate adverts to ensure they are honest.

The essence of my complaint was that the smart meter ads focused on the accuracy of smart meters; however recent studies and complaints from the public have shown that the meters are unreliable and can give wildly inaccurate readings.

I have just received their response, which reads:

"We have carefully considered the points you raised but have decided that the advertising rules have not been broken on this occasion and we won't be taking further action on your complaint. This is because we consider that the ad is likely to be interpreted as simply highlighting the perceived benefits of the smart meter (in giving up-to-date usage figures via a device that is more accessible and avoid being charged estimated bills and consequently avoid the need to submit estimated readings or wait for remuneration). We acknowledge that smart meters may not be seen as beneficial to all, and that some customers may have not had a good experience with their smart meters so far. However we consider that this is a matter of individual customer experience, and the ad itself is unlikely to exaggerate the benefits of smart meters. We therefore consider that the ad is unlikely to materially mislead customers"

You will note that they have not specifically addressed my complaint that they highlighted the accuracy of the smart meters knowing that there were serious doubts over their accuracy which even their own spokesmen acknowledged.

I have appealed the ruling as follows:

Dear Ms Marchant,
Thank you for your email detailing the outcome of my complaint. I have read it carefully and do not believe it has addressed the actual point of my complaint which was that the advertisers highlighted one particular attribute of their product - that they were very accurate. They did so knowing that their product was in fact unreliable.
Here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/bills/article-4291166/Not-smart-New-energy-meters-won-t-work-1-3-homes.html is an article which gives evidence to support my complaint. Below are relevant excerpts from the article.
"An industry insider admitted to Money Mail that suppliers are struggling to meet the deadline because smart meter technology isn't advanced enough.
The industry is frantically working to improve the technology, but we don't yet have solutions for all the problems. We need more time. By rushing, mistakes will happen."
In your ruling you say how you "consider that the ad is likely to be interpreted", but my complaint is specifically about the claim of accuracy. It is on that point that I believe the ad fails the objective test of not misleading the public.
Please will you address this point specifically in the light of the evidence.
Yours sincerely,
Derek Tipp

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