Utility giant Scottish & Southern Electric has been given the all-clear for a mailshot pushing the company’s roll-out of smart meters despite a claim that it could mislead customers into believing that the upgrade was being forced upon them.
The mailing, understood to have been devised by Proximity London, was designed to look like a notification that a meter reader had visited the property and been unable to gain access.
Text stated “Good news, you’ll never miss us again”. Text next to a ticked box on the front of the leaflet said “Upgrade free to a smart meter and your meter readings will be automatic”. The back of the mailing featured the claim “Wave goodbye to quarterly checks with a free upgrade to a smart meter”. It contained a number of statements regarding the benefits of smart meters. It also stated “call us to book your free installation” and contained a website address to “Find out the steps to install your smart meter”.
But one recipient took exception to the tone of the mailing, and complained to the Advertising Standards Authority that it did not make it clear that upgrading to a smart meter was optional. They also challenged whether it was likely to mislead.
In response, SSE acknowledged that the smart meter was not mandatory, but explained that there was an Ofgem obligation for all electricity and gas suppliers to take all reasonable steps to ensure that a smart metering system is installed in all domestic properties before the end of 2020.
It believed that a typical customer, who had received previous smart meter communications from their supplier, would not interpret the ad to mean that the meter upgrade was mandatory.
The ASA agreed, and considered that consumers would understand from the light hearted and jovial nature of the claims “Good news, you’ll never miss us again” and “wave goodbye to quarterly checks with a free upgrade to a smart meter”.
Ruling that the ad was not in breach of the code, it stated: “We considered that [the mailing] made clear to consumers that the smart meter was not mandatory. For those reasons, we concluded that the ad was unlikely to mislead.”
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