Ecotricity slammed for misleading ‘cheaper than petrol’ claims

Ecotricity slammed for misleading claims that £6 charges will be cheaper than petrol

The firm behind electric car chargers at motorway services has been slammed by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) over ‘vague’ claims that a £6 fee for electric vehicle charging would work out cheaper than refuelling a petrol or diesel car.

We reported earlier in the year that Ecotricity had sent an email to its users saying that it would be introducing a £5 fee for a 20-minute charge at motorway services across the UK. The cost was soon increased to £6 for a 30-minute charge following feedback from customers.

The email said: “After five years, 30 million miles and £2.5 million-worth of free travel, Ecotricity will finally begin charging electric car drivers for using Britain’s most comprehensive car charging network – the Electric Highway. A rapid charge of up to thirty minutes will cost £6, significantly less than the cost of an equivalent petrol or diesel car.”

At the time, we argued that it worked out “almost as expensive as running as combustion-engined car, with added inconvenience.”

It deemed charging plug-in hybrid cars such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV at motorway services pointless – something Ecotricity didn’t deny, claiming that the best-selling plug-in was ‘clogging up’ its network.

But seven people approached the ASA over the claim that it would still be cheaper to charge an electric car at motorway services than using petrol or diesel – and the authority upheld their complaints.

Ordering the wording never be used in emails again, the ASA said: “In the absence of sufficient qualification, consumers would understand that they were comparing the cost of running an electric vehicle against that of all petrol and diesel vehicles in the UK market. As we did not consider that the implied claim had been adequately substantiated, we concluded the ad was misleading.”

The email from Ecotricity also claimed that its network would remain free for its domestic energy customer. However, a number complained that its ‘fair-use policy’ limiting users to one charge a week wasn’t fair.

The ASA agreed, concluding: “We considered that the limitation on the number of charges that consumers could obtain without paying contradicted the claim that the charging was free for Ecotricity energy customers. We therefore concluded that the ads were misleading.”

Web editor at MotoringResearch.com. Drives a 1983 Austin Metro. Tweet me @MR_AndrewBrady.

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  • Andy

    Worth a note that 30 minutes on a 50KW charger gives you at best 25KWh of charge. This electricity is costing about £2.50 at the green domestic tariff (that I have at home) and should be even less for a big company like Ecotricity who buys in large quantities. So their markup on that is at least 240%. I doubt very much that the petrol station makes a 240% markup on the petrol price.