NAD Cleans Up Vacuum Claims

Advertising Law

Robot vacuums battled it out before the National Advertising Division, with the self-regulatory body ultimately siding with iRobot in a challenge to claims made by its competitor, Bobsweep USA, about the bObsweep vacuum.

iRobot challenged four types of claims made on product packaging and in online advertisements: HEPA filter claims, UV light sterilization feature claims, brush-length claims and dustbin-size claims. Finding that Bobsweep lacked substantiation for each category of claim, the NAD recommended that they all be discontinued.

With respect to the HEPA filter claims, iRobot argued that Bobsweep made unsubstantiated implied claims that its filters eliminated allergens from the carpet and the air, and therefore reduced consumer allergies.

“NAD determined that in context, the advertiser communicated an implied claim regarding allergy relief,” according to the decision. “The advertiser’s website section titled ‘Tired of Your Dust Allergies?’ depicts a child suffering from allergies, discusses various allergens and their harmful health effects, and then concludes that HEPA filters, presumably like those in the PetHair, ‘trap smoke, molds, bacteria, dust mites, pollen and other particles.’ The unavoidable conclusion is that use of the PetHair will eliminate or substantially reduce these allergens and improve a person’s allergy symptoms.”

Bobsweep’s reliance on a manufacturer’s certificate to support its HEPA filter claims was insufficient, the NAD added, because “advertisers cannot rely on assurances from third parties to support product performance claims.”

The UV light sterilization feature claims should also be discontinued, the self-regulatory body recommended, as the advertiser lacked support for the strong claims it made, including that the Bob PetHair vacuum “UV sterilizes all types of floors” and “obliterates the harmful germs that come in its path.” Calculations and measurements relating to the UV lamp’s mechanism of action were not enough to support the performance claims, the NAD said.

Similarly, brush-length claims and dustbin-size claims also failed to pass the NAD’s scrutiny. To test the PetHair’s dustbin capacity and that of its competitors, Bobsweep filled the dustbins with oatmeal and then weighed the contents. Not only did this test not represent normal consumer use, but it also lacked consumer relevance by using oatmeal as the sole debris, the decision noted. “[W]hile oatmeal is common debris, the use of oatmeal alone did not accurately reflect the type of soil that would normally fill vacuum dustbins,” the NAD wrote.

Although the advertiser said it “continues to believe all of its challenged claims [are] supported and adequately qualified,” bObsweep agreed to comply with the NAD’s recommendations.

To read the NAD’s press release about the decision, click here.

Why it matters: The decision—the latest in the NAD’s frequent evaluations of vacuum advertising—found that both the express and implied claims made by the advertiser lacked sufficient support. As a result, the self-regulatory body recommended that all the challenged claims be discontinued.



pursuant to New York DR 2-101(f)

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