Gas billboard claiming to be ‘cleaner’ and ‘greener’ pulled by watchdog for misleading consumers

A billboard for Australian Gas Networks (AGN) has been pulled by the advertising industry’s watchdog Ad Standards for making misleading claims about the environmental impact of using gas, based on ‘the overall impression an average consumer’ would have of the advertisement.

The billboard depicted a man holding a tray of lasagne, accompanied by the words “Greener than anything you’re cooking tonight. Love Cleaner Energy, Love Natural Gas”.

The complainant said the ad was false and claimed that the extraction of gas and “the fugitive emission make it comparable to coal as a source of greenhouse gases”. The complainant provided an article from The Guardian to back the point, which reported on research that found that gas and oil had more severe impacts on the environment than previously believed.

The complainant said that for households looking to reduce emissions, buying zero-emission renewable electricity was the simplest solution.

AGN defended the billboard, saying the message was to promote the lower emissions of gas compared to electricity provided by the grid. It claimed that the current Department of Environment and Energy National Greenhouse Accounts Factors Report (NGAFR) supported that view. AGN stated the NGAFR was “the benchmark for measuring emissions” and is consistent with international guidelines.

The business also said that the “advertisement wording of ‘Love cleaner energy. Love natural gas’ promotes natural gas as the cleaner option, but not necessarily the ‘cleanest’.

After defining an environmental claim in advertising to be ‘any representation that indicates or suggests an environmental aspect of a product or service, a component or packaging of, or a quality relating to, a product or service’, the community panel determined the phrases would be determined by the community to claim that the natural gas used to cook the lasagne was greener than any other potential cooking method.

A minority of the panel considered the average consumer would interpret the phrase to refer to the ingredients and method of cooking the lasagne in the billboard.

The majority of the panel acknowledged AGN’s intent was to position gas as a cleaner alternative to grid electricity, however, this was not made clear in the billboard, and thus the overall impression an average consumer in the target market would have of the advertisement would be that natural gas is cleaner and greener.

This was decided to be misleading as renewable energy sources would be cleaner than gas, and therefore the panel upheld the complaint.

In response to the panel’s decision, AGN said:

AGN takes seriously its obligations under the advertising standards to ensure relevant guidelines are followed, in particular the Environmental Claims Code. Our winter advertising campaign aims to raise awareness of natural gas and the benefits it provides over grid electricity, so that consumers can make an informed choice on their energy supply.

In our original submission to the Community Panel, AGN advised that the claims in the advertisement were intended to convey the message that natural gas is a cleaner energy source than grid electricity, due to its lower greenhouse gas emissions. The supporting data relating to the carbon emissions remains as set out in our original response. However, we accept the decision of the Panel and confirm that due to the rotation of our winter campaign ads, the billboard is no longer in use.


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