Boiler manufacturer in hot water with the CMA for overheated green claims

United Kingdom

The CMA has announced a new greenwashing investigation into home boiler manufacturer Worcester Bosch’s marketing practices in relation to its so-called "hydrogen-blend ready" boilers. The CMA has also written to 12 other businesses that sell "hydrogen-blend" boilers to warn them that they could be breaching consumer protection law.

In a press release, the CMA said that its investigation will look at marketing practices including the use of:

– claims that Worcester Bosch boilers can run on a blend of hydrogen and natural gas. This may give the impression this is a special feature, despite all boilers in the UK being legally required to operate this way for decades.

– information and messaging on the use of hydrogen for home heating, despite this not currently being available and its introduction being potentially years away, and dependent on future government decisions.

– descriptions and information about the environmental benefits of "hydrogen-blend ready" boilers which may falsely suggest that they will reduce a household’s carbon footprint.

This action is part of a wider CMA review of consumer protection issues in the green heating and insulation sector, and follows a report earlier this year in which the CMA highlighted concerns about misleading claims in relation to hydrogen use in boilers. Action against other manufacturers may therefore follow.

Presenting rights given to consumers in law as a distinctive feature of the trader’s offer is a specifically banned, always-unfair practice under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, and can be a criminal offence. It's not clear whether a product specification of the kind in issue here amounts to a "right given to consumers in law", but in any event, presenting a feature that is mandatory across the market as a distinctive selling point - if that is what Worcester-Bosch is found to have done - is clearly unfair and misleading.

The CMA press release also highlighted that household boilers are an expensive and long-term purchase, which will no doubt have heightened concern about the effects on consumers if they are misled in the way suggested.

In light of this news, key points for advertisers making green claims include:

– pay close attention to CMA action in relation to greenwashing, especially if there is any suggestion of an investigation into your sector.

– ensure that green claims do not exaggerate the overall environmental benefits, or play down the harms, of a product, service or business.

– before making green claims, make sure you have evidence in hand to substantiate all claims. Don't underestimate the time and effort needed to gather evidence in this technical area.

See for the CMA press release.