Eon has been rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after a “misleading” regional press advert claimed the company had been running for 70 years.
The advert, seen on 8 February, stated “10 energy companies have gone bust in the last year … 70 years and still going strong.”
The big six supplier has been warned by the ASA that the advert must not appear again in its current form and that the company must not claim it had continuously traded for 70 years if that was not the case.
A complainant challenged whether the claim “70 years and still going strong” was misleading and could be substantiated, because they understood that Eon was formed in 2000.
In response the energy giant said they did not believe the claim was misleading because “anecdotal feedback” from its customers, and within its focus groups and forums, showed that consumers did understand its history, particularly that it was once a regional electricity board.
Eon’s history stretches back to the East Midlands Electricity Board which began life in the 1940s, with the creation of the Electricity Act 1947.
Eon said it acknowledged that the trading name of the company providing the supply had changed over the years as a result of acquisitions and the statutory interventions that had occurred.
However, it added, the company as it now is had continuously provided an uninterrupted supply of electricity to customers since 1947 despite the changes to its trading name.
Furthermore Eon said it could “demonstrate” this uninterrupted supply.
Following an investigation the ASA concluded that consumers would understand the claim “70 years and still going strong” to mean Eon, as a private company, could demonstrate a period of continuing trade for 70 years.
It did accept that name changes or the re-branding of an organisation would not prevent it being able to demonstrate a period of continuing trade. It also accepted that the same customers or properties might be retained subsequent to any such changes.
However it considered the change from a nationalised company to a private one was “significant”.
“We considered that a nationalised electricity industry would be publicly owned and have the backing of the government and therefore prior to privatisation, the East Midlands Electricity Board would have operated in a very different way to the private company it later became.
“In particular, it would not have had the risk of failure in the same way that a private company would have, as its longevity and stability was guaranteed because of its being nationalised”, it added.
Therefore, the ASA further considered that the period of time when the electricity industry was nationalised could not be included as counting towards Eon’s trading period, because during that time it did not exist as a private company.
The ASA concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was likely to mislead.
In response to the ruling, an Eon spokesperson told Utility Week: “We’re rightly proud of our many, many years’ experience so very clearly don’t agree with the ASA’s view, especially when other companies who’ve been on a similar journey are still making similar claims about lineage right now.
“We’ll continue to proudly tell our customers about our heritage but clearly abide by the ASA decision.”
Eon UK’s chief executive, Michael Lewis, will be speaking at Utility Week’s Energy Summit on 13 June.
He has urged for spending on energy efficiency to be boosted into the billions if we are to tackle climate change and meet the net zero target by 2050.
Now established as the leading energy event for UK policymakers and industry leaders, the 2019 Utility Week Energy Summit will bring together 150+ key stakeholders to debate these key issues and more. The event will take place in London on 13 June. To find out more and to book visit our event website.