These reports are case summaries of complaints which appeared to raise issues of substance in relation to the interpretation of the ITC Advertising Standards Code. Summary statistics of non-substantive complaints can be found in the full reports which are obtainable from the ITC.
Complaint from: Staff monitoring
An advertisement for Scottish Power claimed that "the average customer actually enjoys cheaper combined gas and electricity from Scottish Power than from Scottish Gas". Onscreen text stated this claim was based on a domestic customer using 20,500kWh of mains gas and 3,300 kWh of domestic electricity annually.
Centrica plc, parent company of British Gas Trading Ltd which also trades as Scottish Gas, complained that Scottish Power had not used the industry standard figure in its advertising. It explained that it believed the average gas consumption figure that had been set by Ofgem was 19,050kWh, not the 20,500kWh quoted in the advertisement, and that if Scottish Power had used this figure, it would not have been able to claim that it offered cheaper combined gas and electricity because British Gas was cheaper.
The ITC was concerned that viewers might not be able to make a fair price comparison with other suppliers if Scottish Power used a different gas consumption figure in its advertising.
Scottish Power admitted that if it had used the 19,050kWh figure as the basis for comparing the cost of domestic gas consumption, Scottish gas would have been marginally cheaper in some areas. The ITC noted however, that this would not have prevented Scottish Power from making the same savings claim because it had been couched in terms of the "average customer" and not all customers. As the claim was valid under both figures, the ITC did not judge there were grounds to uphold the complaint.
On the issue of which figure to use, Scottish Power argued that there was no industry standard set by Ofgem. It therefore chose to calculate its own figure because it judged the 19,050kWh figure was out of date and not representative of the figure relevant to a present-day domestic gas user. It referred to correspondence from Ofgem and Energywatch to support its view. This showed that the basis of the figure was unclear and that it had not been updated since 1996.
Transco calculated an average gas consumption figure of 20,500kWH and Scottish Power used this figure as confirmation of its own figure being up to date. It judged Transco's figures were likely to be the most representative and impartial because Transco was independent of shippers and suppliers, it was the only gas transporter with a network throughout Britain and part of its balancing work included being aware of domestic customer gas needs on a daily basis.
The ITC contacted Energywatch independently to question the background and accuracy of the 19,050kWh figure. Energywatch explained that following an internal review of the domestic gas and electricity consumption figures it was "currently of the view that there is insufficient evidence available at present to support the revision of the gas consumption level that we use for the purposes of our price comparison factsheets". It therefore planned to write to suppliers in order to seek views on the continued use of the existing consumption levels.
As part of its internal review, Energywatch discussed consumption levels with Transco and found that Transco's figure (which Scottish Power had used to confirm its own figure) was likely to include an element of non-domestic gas consumption.
The ITC considered that there was insufficient evidence to support the use of either the Scottish Power figure or the figure recommended by Energywatch. One figure contained an element of non-domestic gas consumption and could therefore be inappropriate to use as a basis for advertising aimed at purely domestic users. And the other figure was generally regarded to be out of date. It therefore judged that the advertisement was misleading and should not be shown again in its current form.
Breach of ITC Code Rule 5.3.1.