Energy Department misled consumers over Green Deal savings, ad watchdog rules

Adverts starring Oliver Heath have been banned

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The Independent Online

The Department of Energy and Climate Change has been ordered to drop an advertising campaign which misled viewers over the savings they could expect to make from the Government’s Green Deal scheme and failed to make clear the costs involved.

In a further blow to the much criticised green initiative, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority following complaints that it misled consumers.

The Green Deal offers households 25-year loans to pay for energy-saving measures such as insulation, boiler upgrades and double glazing. The loans are repaid through the resident's energy bills in the belief that the resulting savings will more than compensate for the loan repayments.

Viewers complained about a television campaign, featuring the presenter Oliver Heath, which implied that savings under the scheme were guaranteed.

The advert claimed that “the money that we are saving more than covers any repayments for having the work done”. The upfront insulation costs would be “repaid using the savings you can expect to make”.

But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that “DECC could not guarantee that Green Deal repayments would exceed savings. Saving calculations were based on what DECC would expect a typical household to save as a result of building improvements and the assumption that energy bills would rise in line with inflation. Because we considered the claims implied that savings were guaranteed, we concluded the ad was misleading.”

The watchdog said the presenter’s personal testimonial was misleading as “Oliver Heath did not make the savings as a Green Deal customer as implied”.

The advert also failed to make clear that consumers may be charged an assessment fee, and the advertiser did not provide sufficient evidence to prove that average property prices increased by 14 per cent (and 38 per cent in some areas) under the Green Deal.

Banning further use of the campaign, the ASA said: “We told DECC to ensure they held sufficient evidence for claims made in marketing communications, including saving claims, their ads did not misleadingly imply savings were guaranteed and that ads did not misleadingly give the impression that Green Deal assessments were impartial or give the impression of being a Green Deal testimonial when they related to other schemes or work.”

Figures released in July show there are just 2,439 Green Deal plans in place or pending, falling short of DECC's target of 10,000 by end of 2013.

The DECC said the advert did not say all upfront costs would be met by a Green Deal finance plan, but said “some” of the costs might be paid for over time.