E.On has been ordered to tear up a press ad campaign after being found guilty of the sort of over-exaggeration that even Donald Trump might wince at, by claiming that the company was 70 years old, “and still going strong”.
The activity was devised by Engine, which has handled the account since 2015, and designed to show the brand’s strong heritage compared to its lesser rivals. It stated: “10 energy companies have gone bust in the last year… 70 years and still going strong.”
It went on: “While some energy suppliers have gone bust, we’ve been reliably providing energy to over 3.8 million UK homes. Switch to an energy provider you can trust.”
But one complainant challenged whether the claim “70 years and still going strong” was misleading and could be substantiated, because they understood that E.On was formed in 2000. The Advertising Standards Authority set about to find out.
In response, E.On said the ad was intended to promote interest in E.On as an energy supplier. It did not believe the claim was misleading because “anecdotal feedback” from its customers, and within its focus groups and forums, showed that consumers did understand its history, particularly that it was once a regional electricity board.
E.On did acknowledge that the trading name of the company had changed over the years as a result of acquisitions and statutory interventions. Yet it insisted that throughout the period since 1947 there had been a continued obligation to supply premises with electricity and that E.On, as it was now, had continuously provided electricity to consumers and properties.
It added that, despite changes to its trading name, E.On could demonstrate that the supply of electricity had been uninterrupted since 1947.
The ASA, however, was unconvinced. The watchdog pointed out that consumers would understand the claim “70 years and still going strong” to mean E.On, as a private company, could demonstrate a period of continuing trade for 70 years.
In its ruling, the regulator threw out E.On claims that the period of time when the electricity industry was nationalised should count towards its trading period because, at this time, it did not exist as a private company.
Concluding that the claim had not been substantiated and was likely to mislead, the ASA banned the ad from appearing again and warned the firm not to claim it had continuously traded for 70 years if it was not the case.
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