The Advertsising Standards Authority has told E.On that it has to withdraw regional press advertisements comparing itself to energy companies going out of business. The company said it was “70 years old and still going strong” but a complainant said that was misleading because the company was formed in 2012.
The ASA did not accept the company’s argument that it had had a continuous obligation to supply its customers through that time and that customers understod how it had evolved through regional electricity boards and privatisation.
It said, “Of itself, name changes or re-branding of an organisation would not prevent its being able to demonstrate a period of continuing trade. We also accepted that the same customers or properties might be retained subsequent to any such changes. However, we considered that the change from nationalisation to privatisation was a significant one, which resulted in the formation of a private company – East Midlands Electricity plc”.
Also, with the backing of the government, the publicly owned 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…. consumers would not view an Electricity Board that was part of a nationalised industry as being the same as a private company”.
While it was nationalised, E.On did not exist as a private company. “We did not consider that E.ON had established a period of continuing trade since 1947,” said ASA.