Solartwin rapped for misleading solar panel ad'Zero carbon' solar panels judged misleading by ASA

14 December 2011

Domestic solar panels

The Advertising Standard Agency has today upheld a complaint about an advert from the solar panels firm Solartwin, which said that Solartwin solar power and water heating systems are zero carbon.

Solartwin now has to make sure the ad does not appear again in its current form. Its website today shows its strapline - 'zero carbon solar power and water heating' - partly covered with the mention 'ASA BANNED!' 

ASA solar panel ruling

The challenge to the ad was based on the fact that carbon is produced during the manufacture of the solar panels, so the system cannot be truly zero carbon. 

The company argued in response that all manufactured products would produce carbon at the manufacturing stage, but that the carbon produced would be offset during the zero-carbon operation of the solar system once it was installed.

However the ASA still felt that, in the context of the ad, consumers were likely to interpret the zero carbon claim to mean that no carbon was produced in the full lifecycle of the advertised products.

It concluded that the zero carbon claim had not been substantiated and that the ad was likely to mislead consumers.

Solar panel sales

Which? energy expert Sylvia Baron, says: 'When Which? investigated solar panel sales, we found that some companies were breaching the consumer code they signed up to, as some were offering on-the-spot discounts and using pressure selling technics. 

Which? has produced a checklist for consumers to use when considering buying solar panels and is working with the industry and other parties to tighten the rules.'

You can watch footage of our undercover investigations into solar company sales practices and download our solar checklist online in our how to buy solar panels guide.

Solartwin technology

There are two broad types of solar panel technology - those that heat hot water (solar thermal) and those that produce electricity (solar photovoltaic) Older solar hot water systems use some electricity to run their pumps and solar water controls. 

Solartwin differentiates itself by claiming that the pumps used in its solar systems are 100% solar electric powered, using solar photovoltaics. It is on this basis that it claims 'zero carbon'. 

Bad week for solar

The ASA ruling comes at a time when solar is already being badly hit by the proposed cuts to the feed-in tariff, the incentive that pays householders for having solar photovoltaic panels on their roof. 

The proposal to cut the tariff, although still under consultation until 23 December, would mean that systems installed after 12 December would get a lower rate: 21p per kilowatt hour instead of the older, more generous 43.3p. This is now being challenged in Court by two solar companies and Friends of the Earth.

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