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'Misleading' smart meter ad banned

A 'misleading' radio advert which claimed installing a smart meter could save consumers an average of 354 kilowatt hours (kWh) a year has been banned.

The advert for Smart Energy GB claimed consumers could save 354kWh a year on average with a smart meter – but the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) says it was not made clear enough that this saving would be as a result of reducing household energy usage rather than installing the smart meter alone.

The ASA has ruled that the advert must not appear again in its current form.

See our Smart Meters guide for full info, and check our Cheap Energy Club to see if you can switch and save on your bills.

What are smart meters?

Smart gas and electricity meters take automatic meter readings which are sent directly to your supplier, meaning you're charged on what you actually use rather than an estimate.

In theory, more accurate readings could also help you cut down your energy use, as you'll be able to see exactly what you're using – but installing a smart meter won't reduce energy usage by itself.

The Government wants everyone in England, Scotland and Wales to be offered a smart meter over the next few years.

But first generation SMETS 1 meters frequently stop working when you switch supplier, so you'll then need to start doing manual meter readings again. SMETS 2, the newer type, allow you to switch while keeping your meter's functionality. See our Smart Meters guide for more.

What did the advert say?

The Smart Energy GB advert, which was heard on the radio on 7 July 2018, listed activities which use energy such as boiling the kettle and watching TV, before adding: "Crikey, we use so much energy every day it is exhausting. And expensive. But with a smart meter you get an expected average saving of 354 kilowatt hours."

The ASA says that some listeners could interpret this as meaning that installing a smart meter would in itself save this amount of energy.

The advertising regulator acknowledged that the advert ended by stating "savings possible by measuring energy usage and reducing wastage" – but says that this qualification wasn't sufficient because it was separated from the original claim.

It also received complaints about the advert's claim that if everyone got a smart meter, enough energy could be saved to "power Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle", but these were not upheld.

The ASA also ruled a similar press advert, which was seen on 27 June 2018, was not misleading as it made it sufficiently clear the savings were based on behavioural changes.

What does Smart Energy GB say?

A Smart Energy GB spokesperson said it is planning on appealing the decision.

The spokesperson said: "It is extremely odd that they have ruled against something which is substantiated in the terms and conditions within the advert. Using terms and conditions to substantiate claims is widely used practice across the advertising industry."

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