Firm to appeal Masport advert decision

Last updated 05:00 08/08/2012

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The manufacturer of Masport fires is appealing against the Advertising Standards Authority's decision to uphold a complaint about the marketing of its fires as environmentally friendly.

A TV ad said Masport wood fires were an "environmentally friendly way to keep your family warm". That prompted a complaint from a member of the public, who said the fires caused air pollution and were therefore bad for the environment. The authority ruled that Glen Dimplex Australasia, the owner of Masport Heating, could not make such a sweeping claim, regardless of whether its claimed benefits could be substantiated.

Glen Dimplex spokesman Karl Brooks said it found out the complaint had been upheld only yesterday. It had originally been notified of the authority's decision in a letter but subsequently received the full decision in writing which incorrectly stated the complaint had not been upheld.

The company would challenge the decision, he said, on the grounds the complainant had claimed Masport fires were burning fossil fuels such as coal, despite the fact the ad did not mention coal or fossil fuels.

It argued its claimed environmental friendliness referred to the use of sustainable wood sources which were a carbon-neutral product. Burning wood generated no more carbon dioxide than if it was left to decompose naturally, Glen Dimplex said.

Authority chief executive Hilary Souter apologised for the confusion over its decision and said it was working hard to help the company through the appeal process.

In its written decision, the authority said the ad breached the code for environmental claims, which states that absolute claims of environmental benefit, including using the term "environmentally friendly", are inappropriate.

The code says that any generalised claims of benefit must be based on the complete life cycle of the product and its packaging.

The complaint raises the spectre of greenwashing - where companies overstate the eco-credentials of products to appeal to green-minded consumers.

Consumer New Zealand adviser Paul Doocey warned that companies greenwashing their products risked falling foul of the Fair Trading Act.

Environmental claims were harder to assess, because they often did not relate directly to the product's performance and consumers had little insight into how a product was made, he said.

"People feel good because they see something advertised as environmentally friendly, but they wouldn't have a clue, would they?"

Greenwashing had increased as people became more aware of environmental issues.

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- This article has been corrected to reflect the ownership of Masport Heating

- The Dominion Post

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