The ad watchdog has sent out a warning to any companies thinking of jumping on the pandemic to promote Covid fighting products without proper substantiation after chastising a Worthing firm for claiming its air purifier could kill all coronavirus cells when in fact it was only proven to be effective against bird flu.
The ad for the £570 Go-Vi Eradicator 19, an air and surface purifier, appeared on a website called “protect-nhs” which was run by the company, and not affiliated with the actual NHS.
The device worked by pulling air into the unit and using ozone gas and ultraviolet light to clean the air.
The ad contained the claim “proven to destroy coronavirus cells” and asterisked text near the bottom of the page stated it had been tested by independent laboratories and proved to be 99.9% effective against “H5N1 and coronavirus”.
It added that the testing had been performed by The Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Lyon, France, under the authority of France’s Ministry of Research.
The ad sparked a single complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, which challenged whether the claim was misleading and could be substantiated.
In response, Go-Vi maintained its product was effective at destroying Covid-19. It insisted the Go-Vi Eradicator 19 had been tested by independent laboratories and was proven to be effective against both the H5N1 virus and coronavirus, and could destroy the H5N1 virus in 44 seconds.
The firm claimed that tests against Covid-19 were undertaken by a laboratory in Florida which was accredited by the US Centers for Disease Control, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Agriculture, and Florida’s Department of Health.
Go-Vi provided documentation which comprised a report by the product supplier, a press release and paper by the manufacturer and a letter from the lab director of the manufacturer. However, the firm said that it was no longer promoting the product and that its website was no longer live as a result of a change in its business model.
But in its ruling, the ASA said the average reader would be led to believe it was similarly effective against Covid-19.
After consulting the Health & Safety Executive, the watchdog said the effectiveness of such air cleaners depended on many factors.
Guidance published by the Government’s Sage scientific advisory group had also suggested that air cleaning devices “had limited benefit” in places that already had adequate ventilation. Sage “discouraged the use of air purifiers unless there was strong evidence of their efficacy”, the ASA said.
It also looked at guidance from the European Chemicals Agency on how to determine the effectiveness of a product, which recommended a barrage of tests including in real-world scenarios.
“We therefore expected to see methodologically sound evidence that reflected how the product was likely to be used in real life,” the ASA said. “It did not consider the conditions of realistic use, such as the amount of air flow depending on the type of space where the air purifier was placed, the variable settings likely to be applied to the air purifier, the type of the space where the air was being disinfected, or relevant soiling and interfering substances.”
The evidence submitted by the firm was not adequate proof that the product could destroy the virus, either on surfaces or in the air, or that it was better than any other method of ventilation, the ASA ruled, and banned the ad from appearing again.
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