The ruling dates from March this year after the ASA received a complaint about misleading and unsubstantiated claims on the sports nutrition brand’s website and social media platforms.
The complainant challenged the use of ‘plastic free’ (on its website) and ‘Zero plastic’ (Instagram) in product marketing when it was understood the packaging contained a plastic lining.
This made it difficult to recycle and rendered the claims in breach of CAP rules on misleading advertising, substantiation, and environmental declarations.
The ASA upheld the complaint and expected abnormal. to provide evidence to justify its claims and demonstrate that product packaging conformed to the marketing criteria.
However, so far, parent company Class Delta, which also owns The Protein Works brand, has ignored requests for information and failed to take appropriate action.
As it stands, both “plastic free” claims are still being used to illustrate environmental propriety with online content also stating that ‘all parts of abnormal. can be recycled’.
The code breaches relate to three CAP (Edition 12) rules. The first (rule 3.1) deals with misleading advertising and states that ‘marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so’, while rule 3.7 addresses ‘adequate substantiation’ of marketing claims.
It asserts that sufficient documentary evidence must be available to prove the integrity and objectivity of information used in publicity and preclude claims that may mislead consumers.
The third (rule 11.3) refers to ‘absolute claims’ which must be supported by a high level of substantiation.
This caveat stipulates that certain claims can only be justified, “if the advertised product provides a total environmental benefit over that of the marketer's previous product or competitor products and the basis of the comparison is clear”.
In the absence of supporting evidence from Class Delta, the ASA was forced to rule in favour of the complainant.
It determined that the use and context of the disputed claims were misleading and unsubstantiated and that consumers would interpret ‘plastic free’ and ‘zero plastic’ to mean that the product packaging did not contain any plastic.
ASA also ruled that a further claim ‘zero waste’, in both ads, would be “similarly understood in the context of the ads”.
The judgement stipulated that the marketing communication should not appear again in its current form and should not “state that their products and packaging were plastic-free, had zero plastic, or were zero waste where they contained components that did not meet this criteria”.
The ASA expressed concern about the “lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code” and reminded Class Delta about its “responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future”.
According to the ASA, the matter is now in the hands of the CAP Compliance team.