Straight Statistics claims against Ecocamel upheld

The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint made by Straight Statistics against Ecocamel, which claimed a range of water and energy savings from the use of its aerated showerhead.
The national press ads claimed that the showerhead saved up to 40 per cent of water use, and up to £240 a year in energy bills. The chairman of Straight Statistics, Lord Lipsey, challenged these claims, together with the figures used by Ecocamel for water costs and the claim that heating hot water in the home represents 5 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.
In an adjudication published on its website today, the ASA upholds the complaints on the performance of the showerhead and the water cost figures, but concludes that the figure on greenhouse gas emissions is well-founded. Ecocamel has been told that the ad must not appear again in that form.
The company’s claims on water savings were based on tests at Liverpool John Moores University in 2008. The university tested various aerated water-saving showerheads against a popular conventional one. They also cited a report by United Utilities Water plc which showed that using an aerated showerhead reduced consumption by 41.39 per cent, assuming there were 2.4 people in a household, each showering 0.7 times a day for five minutes.
The ASA sought advice from an expert, who reviewed the Liverpool study. Nine showerheads had been tested, all but one of them Ecocamel products in development. Three were more water-efficient than the Ecocamel design that went into production; three were less efficient; two were withdrawn; and only one was a non-aerated normal showerhead. The Ecocamel design that went into production and formed the basis of the claim was shown to deliver an average of 50 per cent less water than the conventional design.
The ASA concluded that a test against only one conventional showerhead was insufficient to support the claims made in the ad. “In some cases, depending on the efficiency of the showerhead the consumer previously used, there would be no water savings at all or even an increase in water flow with the Ecocamel” the adjudication says. It further concluded that there was no such thing as a “normal showerhead” since water flow and efficiency vary greatly from model to model, so the claim made was “effectively meaningless”.
On claims made about the costs of water supply and the monetary savings attributable to the Ecocamel showerhead,  the ASA’s expert said that while it might be possible to quote a water cost for a particular household (the approach taken by Ecocamel) it was impossible to generalise that to all households because of differences in tariffs, standing charges, and sewerage charges. The ASA concluded that the claim was not adequately substantiated and likely to mislead.
The money savings claimed also depended on particular circumstances – where the family lived, what their precise water and gas tariffs were, how they heated their water and what their previous showerhead was. The possible savings varied so much from household to household that repeated references to annual savings of up to £240 had not been adequately substantiated, were not meaningful and were misleading to consumers.
However, the claim that water heating in the home (excluding central heating) was responsible for 5 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions was attributed to an Environment Agency report – “a reputable source and we had no reason to doubt it was true”. This part of the complaint was not upheld.
Since 1 March, the ASA’s rulings also apply to manufacturers’ websites. Yesterday, however, the Ecocamel website continued to emphasise the £240 saving claim, and cited figures for flow rates from the Liverpool tests (6.7 litres per minute for Ecocamel showerhead vs 12.2 litres for a conventional showerhead) which the ASA’s expert said did not appear in the Liverpool study.