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07 February 2024, 13:40

ASA Finds GLA’s ULEZ Ad Claim Misleading Regarding Pollution Levels Inside Cars

ASA Finds GLA’s ULEZ Ad Claim Misleading Regarding Pollution Levels Inside Cars

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled against a claim made in a Greater London Authority (GLA) radio advertisement promoting the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) across London. The ad, aired between February and March 2023, suggested that "one of the most polluted places in London is inside your car," a statement the ASA has found to be misleading.

The contentious ad began with the ambient sounds of traffic, transitioning into a narrative emphasizing the protective features of cars, juxtaposing these against the dangers of air pollution within the vehicle itself. It aimed to underline the significance of the ULEZ expansion in combating air quality issues by stating, "That’s why the ULEZ is expanding across all London boroughs."

Complaints arose challenging the validity of the GLA's claim regarding the pollution levels inside cars, questioning whether it could be empirically supported. In response, the GLA provided an array of studies and reports to substantiate their claim, highlighting research that pointed to high levels of exposure to air pollution inside vehicles compared to other environments in London.

Despite the evidence, including a mix of pilot studies, reviews, and a comprehensive examination of pollution exposure among different transportation methods, the ASA determined that the claim was not adequately substantiated. The authority underscored that the provided studies did not convincingly compare the pollution levels inside cars with a wide range of other locations in London to justify the assertion made in the advertisement.

The ruling emphasized that while certain studies indicated drivers and passengers could be exposed to significant pollution levels, especially professional drivers, this did not necessarily translate to the average driver's experience. Moreover, the ASA noted that many of the studies did not focus exclusively on London or did not consider the varied experiences of non-professional drivers, thus failing to conclusively prove that the inside of a car ranks among the most polluted places in the city.

The ASA's decision was based on the BCAP Code rules regarding misleading advertising, substantiation, and environmental claims, directing the GLA to ensure that future marketing claims are supported by relevant and robust evidence.

This ruling arrives amidst broader efforts to improve air quality in London, with the ULEZ expansion being a key component of the city's strategy to reduce pollution levels. However, the ASA's findings highlight the importance of accurately presenting environmental claims to the public, ensuring that initiatives designed to protect public health are communicated with precision and backed by solid evidence.

Notes to the editor

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