Peters & Peters

Advert about expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone contained misleading claims about air pollution in London


Key facts:

The ASA received 38 complaints about a radio advert produced by the GLA about the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). The advert included the claim “according to research, one of the most polluted places in London is inside your car”. The issue for the ASA was whether this claim was misleading and could be substantiated.

In response to the complaints, the GLA referred to 10 separate research studies which it said showed that the inside of a car was one of the spaces most exposed to air pollution. The GLA said that it regularly reported on air pollution and that its evidence showed that (among other things) exposure to air pollution was highest when people were closer to the source of emissions.

The ASA upheld the complaints about the advert. It found that listeners would understand the claim made in the advert to mean the level of air pollution in a car in London ranked among the places with the highest levels of air pollution in the city. The ASA therefore expected to see evidence that compared the level of air pollution in cars in London to the level of air pollution in a variety of other contexts in which a person in London might find themselves.

The ASA reviewed and assessed the research studies relied on by the GLA. These reports established that London’s air was polluted, that proximity to the source of air pollution increased exposure, that car users were exposed to air pollution when inside their car and that this could be higher than when using other forms of transport. However, the evidence did not draw a direct comparison between the level of air pollution within a car in London and the equivalent levels at a variety of other locations and contexts around London. Nor did it adequately support the GLA’s claim from the point of view of the average driver.

The ASA therefore concluded that the GLA’s claim had not been adequately substantiated and was likely to materially mislead. The ASA told the GLA to ensure that relevant evidence was held to support all objective marketing claims.


ASA ruling

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