Prism+ air-con ad deemed ‘greenwashing’ by Singapore watchdog; company defends it as ‘tongue-in-cheek’


The advertisement was in the form of a video that featured influencer Wendy Cheng, better known as Xiaxue, on a mission to “save the earth”. - PHOTOS: FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM OF PRISM

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s advertising standards watchdog has found an advertisement by local electronics company Prism+ “not acceptable” for its misleading claims about the environmental friendliness of its line of air-conditioners.

This marks the first time the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (Asas) has found a company in breach of the advertising code for greenwashing, or marketing that exaggerates the sustainability of a product.

The offending ad for the Prism+ zero smart air-con was pulled from the company’s Instagram page after it was notified by Asas on Dec 5, said Asas chairman Ang Peng Hwa in a statement to The Straits Times on Dec 15.

Asas had received a complaint on the campaign, which included a video that featured influencer Wendy Cheng – better known as Xiaxue – on a mission to “save the earth”. In the video, she put on winter wear and set her Prism+ air-con temperature to 23 deg C.

“Save Earth and electricity with 5 ticks energy saving,” read the caption, referring to Singapore’s classification system for the energy efficiency of electrical appliances, with five ticks being the highest rating.

After deliberation, Asas’ council found the wording of the ad to be in breach of the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (Scap).

Asas singled out specifically the claim that using Prism+ air-conditioners was the “best tip” to “save the earth” and the depiction of Xiaxue setting the temperature to 23 deg C to do so.

Said Professor Ang: “The council is of the position that these are not acceptable under the Scap to communicate that the product brings about energy savings, irrespective of whether they can be demonstrated, in view of the energy such appliances consume.”

In particular, Prism+ had flouted the code’s standards, which require advertisements not to mislead by “inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration or omission” and not to misrepresent any matter likely to influence consumers’ attitudes to the product.

Asas also reminded Prism+ that any claims about energy savings should be substantiated by tests conducted by independent parties in conditions that are applicable to the local context.

Responding to the decision, a spokesman for Prism+ told ST the ad was meant to be “playful and tongue-in-cheek”, and described its theme of saving the earth as “satirical humour”.

“We believe that consumers should be discerning enough to know that regardless of how efficient an air-conditioner is, it is not going to be beneficial for the environment,” he said.

In any case, energy savings are not a key selling point of Prism+ air-conditioners, he added, saying: “Everyone sells five-tick air-cons now.”

The spokesman insisted that the company did not exaggerate or misrepresent its air-conditioner’s features, and is prepared to defend the claims it has made.

He also said that the advertising campaign which blasted the offending video to Instagram users ran from Oct 17 to Nov 19, before Asas’ decision.

However, the video was removed from the Prism+ Instagram page only after the company was notified by the regulatory body on Dec 5.

“We have always had a cooperative stance towards Asas. Greenwashing has never been part of our DNA,” said the Prism+ spokesman.

Globally, regulators are starting to clamp down on dubious sustainability claims in advertising.

In early December, Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority banned ads for airlines Lufthansa, Etihad Airways and Air France for overstating their environmental commitments.

In Hong Kong, the government recalled certain dehumidifiers after tests found they were less energy-efficient than claimed when used with high-efficiency particulate air, or Hepa, filters.

Scap, the advertising code administered by Asas, does not have force of law in Singapore, but the watchdog can issue sanctions, such as by referring the matter to the Consumers Association of Singapore for action to be taken under the law.

Asas has received one other complaint about greenwashing since 2020, but the ad in that case was not found to have breached Scap. - The Straits Times/ANN

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Singapore , Watchdog , Ad , Unhappy , Green Washing

   

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