Peters & Peters

Anglian Water advert found to be misleading


Key facts:

The ASA found that TV and video on-demand adverts aired by Anglian Water were misleading. The adverts appeared in September and October 2022. They featured a girl who said that “Right now, Anglian Water is creating wetlands to clean water using nature and make homes for wildlife. By building a really long pipe to bring water to places that need it most, while protecting nature too. And huge tanks to collect rain so there’s less chance of floods in the future. In fact, everything they do today is for tomorrow …” A male voice-over said, “Never still, never stop. Anglian Water. Love every drop”. Nine complainants alleged that the adverts were misleading as they omitted significant information about Anglian Water’s history of releasing sewage into the environment.

As the water industry is a regulated monopoly, domestic consumers do not select a water supplier. The purpose of the adverts was therefore, according to Anglian Water, to elicit support for initiatives in which it was investing, to explain the impact Anglian Water had on the environment, and the steps it was taking to reduce where it had been detrimental, and to address criticisms regarding perceptions of environmental performance. Anglian Water argued that it had substantiated the initiatives referenced in the adverts. The adverts had been pre-approved by Clearcast, which operates a clearance system for television commercials, including ensuring these follow the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (the BCAP Code), before they are shown on television.

The ASA considered the general data available regarding Anglian Water’s environmental performance, including the number of serious pollution incidents and enforcement action against Anglian Water, arising out of Environmental Permitting Regulation offences. While the ASA accepted that Anglian Water was carrying out a number of activities that could have a positive impact, it agreed that it had also been involved in activities that caused harm to the environment, which contradicted the overall impression of the adverts.

As a result, the ASA held that the adverts omitted material information and were therefore misleading (breaching BCAP rules 3.1, 3.2, 3.9, 9.2 and CAP Code 3.1, 3.3., 3.7 amd 11.1).


ASA ruling

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