The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has cracked down on misleading claims about vehicles' emissions-free status in advertisements, banning ads from BMW, MG Motor, and Transport for London (TfL).
The rulings highlight the need for car manufacturers to accurately represent the environmental impact of their products, taking into account the full lifecycle of a vehicle.
BMW and MG made "zero-emissions" claims in their ads. Still, the ASA ruled that this is misleading as it fails to consider emissions generated during manufacturing and when using electricity from fossil fuels when charging battery electric vehicles (BEVs).
The ASA clarified that for such claims to comply with advertising regulations, they must explicitly state that they apply only to tailpipe emissions during driving.
Following the rulings, MG has removed "zero emissions" claims from their ads, while BMW stopped bidding on “zero emissions cars” keywords on Google Ads.
The Ruling on TfL's Ads
Meanwhile, the ASA upheld complaints regarding two claims made in TfL ads promoting the expansion of London's ultra-low emission zone (Ulez).
In total, the ASA said it received 503 complaints about TfL’s ads.
One claim stated a significant reduction in nitrogen dioxide emissions, but the ASA found the methodology for calculating this decrease wasn't adequately explained.
Another claim about air pollution-related deaths was deemed misleading due to being based on a modeled scenario rather than actual data. While the ASA didn't challenge the underlying science used, it emphasized the need for clear and accurate representation in advertising.
TfL expressed its disappointment about the rulings but maintains their ads are based on scientific evidence. However, it acknowledged the need for clearer communication.
These rulings represent a significant step in tackling greenwashing and setting important precedents for future marketing of BEVs and other environmental ads.
As regulations and consumer awareness evolve, brands must ensure their marketing accurately reflects the environmental impact of their products and initiatives.