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Ryanair and Vodafone rapped over misleading claims

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Ryanair and Vodafone have been slapped on the wrist by the advertising watchdog over misleading claims about low emissions and 5G internet speeds.

The cut price carrier ran an ad campaign in September saying it was the ‘lowest emissions airline in Europe’.

It claimed it had the lowest carbon emissions of any major airline – 66g CO2 for every passenger kilometre flown due to its newer aircraft fleet and high number of passenger seats filled.

However, an energy expert and several complainants went to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to challenge whether this claim could be backed up and whether it was misleading.

In response, Ryanair said it used a benchmark measure of CO2 emissions, based on grams of C02 per passenger per kilometre flown. It compared this measure against four other major European airlines and said it came out on top.

It also said ‘low CO2 emissions’ meant ‘less than average’ and thought this was clear for consumers. But they could also go to the environmental page on its website to verify the claims.

However, the ASA has banned the ad appearing in its current form, saying when making environmental claims, Ryanair must ensure it holds “adequate evidence to substantiate them” and “to ensure the basis of those claims were made clear”.

The ASA said in context consumers would believe that by flying with Ryanair, they would be contributing to lower CO2 emissions than when flying with another European carrier.

In its assessment, the ASA stated: “We were concerned that the basis of the claims had not been made clear in the ads and that the evidence provided was insufficient to demonstrate that Ryanair was the lowest carbon-emitting airline on the basis of that metric.

“Consequently, we concluded that the claims ‘Europe’s…lowest emissions airline and ‘low CO2 emissions were misleading.”

Vodafone’s unlimited data plans

The ASA has also upheld a complaint about Vodafone adverts for its unlimited data plans which suggested they’re available on the 5G network.

In the ads for three separate mobile data plans, text stated that the deals were available with 5G, from £23 a month, with further information explaining mobile speed, including that customers would have access to its 5G network at full speed.

However, competitors Virgin Media and Three challenged whether the claim of ‘unlimited’ coupled with the reference to 5G was misleading and whether the ads presented the restrictions to speeds clearly enough.

The advertising watchdog upheld the complaints, saying consumers would expect an unlimited data plan without restriction for exceeding a specific amount of data. But two of the plans were subject to speed limitations and maximum download speeds of 2Mbps and 10Mbps, significantly below the 5G claim.

The ASA stated: “We considered that consumers were likely to primarily associate 5G with significantly faster speeds. We therefore considered that consumers would expect that plans which were specifically advertised as available on 5G would be provided via 5G (where device and location allowed) and with 5G speeds, unless references to 5G were immediately qualified to clearly explain that the plans would not deliver 5G speeds.”

As with Ryanair, the ASA told Vodafone that the ads must not appear again in their current format and future ads relating to the unlimited data plans must clearly state the speed restrictions.

In its response, Vodafone said legitimate users on unlimited plans had not incurred any additional charges. As part of a prior customer trial, it found an unlimited data allowance at a capped speed provided ‘peace of mind to consumers’ because they could use as much data as they needed without worrying about unexpected bills.

It added its ‘mobile speed explained’ page had also been updated to include a more detailed explanation of speed and activities users could expect to perform on each platform.

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