Advertising regulator bans Dyson vacuum cleaner ad after Hoover complains

Britain's Advertising Standards Authority has ordered Dyson not to repeat an ad that claims its vacuum cleaners don't rely on filters and don't clog. The ruling, which follows a complaint from competitor Hoover, comes despite Dyson having cleared its claims before running the ad. It also backed up the claim with independent evidence that its technology worked. As is often the case with ASA rulings, it came down to the regulator's belief that certain phrases would be misunderstood by consumers.In this case, it ruled that "a Dyson doesn't rely on a filter" would be interpreted by the general public to mean that there is no filter at all in Dyson's machine. While Dysons do contain filters, they perform auxiliary air intake and hypoallergenic functions, and do not need to be frequently cleaned. Most vacuum cleaners use filters to help remove dust from air, and they require frequent cleaning and replacement--Dysons use the eponymous inventor's cyclonic separation system. "We understood that neither the pre-motor nor the post-motor filters fitted in a Dyson cleaner were used in the primary separation of dust and dirt from the air," the ASA said in its ruling. "We recognised that Dyson had intended the claim to highlight the difference between the filtration system of Dyson cleaners and that of other cleaners ... We considered, however, that viewers were likely to understand the claim "a Dyson doesn't rely on a filter so there's nothing to clog" to imply Dyson cleaners did not have a filter, which meant they could not become clogged, although we appreciated that this was not the message Dyson had intended to convey." The ruling all but admits that the Advertising Standards Authority evaluates complaints based not on the technical accuracy of a claim, but on whether a complainant's misinterpretation of it was "likely" -- even if other branches of Britain's advertising regulatory system had specifically blessed the claim at hand. "The Broadcasting Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) said they sought expert advice from a consultant and discussed the ad in their secretariat meeting before clearing it. They said they agreed with Dyson's argument that, although the ad stated "a Dyson doesn't rely on a filter", it was not misleading, because it did not state that there was no filter at all," it wrote. "We noted the expert commissioned by the BACC had accepted Dyson's evidence that the suction power of certain Dyson cleaners remained constant when the dust collection bin filled up with certain quantities of dust," According to the ruling, the ad must not be run again in its current form.

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32 Responses to Advertising regulator bans Dyson vacuum cleaner ad after Hoover complains

  1. Daemon says:

    Wait, hold on – this group regulates advertisements based on whether or not they are likely to be misinterpreted, but politicians are still allowed on air? Not to mention most coporate news…

  2. Anonymous says:

    I don’t understand this. Dyson is flat out lying. Hoover was right.

    I have a Dyson DC18 Vacuum. Also a couple of roombas named Alphonse and Gaston, and an ancient Kirby that I use in the shop (the only thing that ever stopped that was a 3″ lag bolt, replaced the impeller and it’s good as new).

    The Dyson absolutely does clog. It happens less frequently than with the old Hoover globe, but mine has clogged dozens of times. Saying it doesn’t is just plain lying. There’s no wiggle room here, it’s a lie.

    The Dyson absolutely does rely on a filter. When that filter gets clogged up with dust, the Dyson no longer works. Saying it does not rely on a filter is just plain lying. Again, there’s no semantic wiggle room here.

    My Dyson cleans deeper and more thoroughly than any other vacuum I’ve ever owned. But saying it doesn’t clog or rely on filters is false advertising.


  3. Antinous says:

    Roombas are, ironically, incompatible with modernist furniture. I had one that always got stuck humping the leg of a Barcelona chair.

  4. nprnncbl says:

    That sucks.

  5. Rob Beschizza says:

    I’m worried the comments will be clogged up by comments like yours. Don’t make me filter them.

  6. MichaelRN says:

    I nominate AndyHavens @ #20 for the win.

  7. Anonymous says:

    There are times that I really admire the ASA. All the disgustingly deceitful ads that I see on US TV could use a good regulatory whacking.

    Well, when comparing consumer products in Britain with consumer products in the U.S., the only difference I can see is the British have fewer choices and pay obscenely more for the exact same products.

  8. usonia says:

    You’d think the Dutch response would be worse, wooden shoe?

  9. DeWynken says:

    I use my Dyson abusively (not self abusively though) and it *can* clog..if you suck up enough socks and paper towels at the intake bulge in the canister. But it’s noting a quick unclip and pushing down on the offending clog doesn’t cure in 5 seconds.

    I wish I lived in Britannia where the thinking is done for me *wistful sigh*

  10. Rani says:

    We have a VAX vacuum that we got a few years ago and it recently died. Turned out it just needs $40 worth of replacement filters, but no one around here seems to be selling the vacs or the filters ; not a good sign, IMO. Anyway, the guy at the sew-n-vac shop near us, who I’ve known since 1989 and consider as honest as you’ll find, has a used Dyson that he’ll sell us for $85. A little old lady brought it in to be repaired, he fixed it, and she never came back and seems to have disappeared off the ends of the earth. So he’ll sell it to us for what he’s into it, basically.

    We have mostly berber carpeting, 1 small room of plush,some tile, and two cats who shed profusely.

    Weight and ease of use are big factors here.

    So I’m weighing it out: $40 for the VAX or $85 for the Dyson. Any bright insights?

    P.S. I vote for AndyHagen, too. I’m asking my Qs here because your punnery resonates with me.

  11. MichaelRN says:

    In making their decision, ASA did not consider all the information available. Some of the dirty little secrets of the vacuum cleaner industry were swept under the rug.

  12. ZoopyFunk says:

    Pork Musket is going to be doing backflips over this one.

  13. bex says:

    Dyson like all vacuum’s that have small apertures (hoses) will clog if any thing bigger than dust is picked up. Dyson without a special attachment are no good if you have a dog.

    I have a bagless Vax and the hose on that is massive and will pick up anything without clogging up, the only filter in that is one after the event like on a dyson so they are not unique , complaint upholded

  14. Felix Mitchell says:

    ‘The ruling all but admits that the Advertising Standards Authority evaluates complaints based not on the technical accuracy of a claim, but on whether a complainant’s misinterpretation of it was “likely” — even if other branches of Britain’s advertising regulatory system had specifically blessed the claim at hand.’

    What you’re implying is that if claims were judged purely on technical accuracy that would be better? And that if claims could be red stamped before broadcasting that would be better too? Right?

    Both of those things would put enormous power into the hands of advertisers – who are already capable of making ads that are misleading.

    If claims were based on technical accuracy it would actually mean that advertisers could say the most outlandish things. Oil companies are very good at this – take a look at the 6+ page responses they give to complaints about their ads. Advertisers know that consumers will often take one meaning from a sentence that technically means something else, and are keen to abuse this. So it’s only fair that the ASA takes this into account. Technical accurecy IS relevant – but only the level of expertise of a normally informed consumer, not an industry expert.

    If claims could be agreed upon before advertising, that would remove the public’s oppourtunity to complain about ads they don’t like. Which is kind of the point. The way it works now is pretty good – Clearcast (and others) give suggestions on how to make claims comply with the CAP code, but the final word is always left until afterwards, from the public and the ASA.

    This might seem unfair to advertisers – they can never rely on a claim being accepted. But do we want the alternative? If advertisers can get everything red stamped before broadcast, then it helps them tread the thin line between misleading consumers and informing them. We don’t want them sniffing around that line, it’s much better if they’re scared to go near it.

    The ASA is a pretty toothless organization anyway – all they ever do is say “don’t broadcast this ad again” which means nothing if the ad has already run for it’s intended timespan. If they’re really pissed off, the ASA suggests to media outlets not to deal with the offending advertiser. I’m not sure how much that means. Lastly, they can forward the complaint to Trading Standards – who might actually do something.

    So, the ASA keeping as much power and being as strict as they can is important – it’s all they can do.

  15. pork musket says:

    I tried to a backflip but I ended up tearing a hamstring… or maybe a porkstring, not sure.

  16. Alpinwolf says:

    I like the tech relationship cyclonic vac’s have to the particle separators used in jet turbine intakes. Gotta love applied inertia.

  17. El Stinko says:

    I’ve got a Dyson (can’t remember what model) and I can tell you that they do have a filter and that filter does clog, and when it clogs the machine does not work well. At first, I was extremely confused as to why the machine’s suction had dropped to about nothing. I was very surprised, after pulling out the manual, to discover that it actually does indeed have a filter and that occasionally needed cleaning. The filter is meant to remove very fine particulate, not the general bulk of dirt and dust, and as such only needs cleaning every six months or so.

    But the machine does rely on it, and when it is clogged the machine doesn’t function properly. So when I discovered this I felt that Dyson had indeed lied to me. It wasn’t just stretching the truth. They make a BIG deal out of this point- in fact they have an entire history of Dyson and this magical product in the literature that comes with the vacuum. All about how he discovered this filterless system and that everyone tried to rip him off yadda yadda… So it’s not a trivial point. But it’s a lie.

    Don’t get me wrong, I sill like the cleaner. I’d much rather rinse out the stupid foam filter occasionally than have to spend a fortune and time on stupid bags. And it does a decent job cleaning my floor.

    But I’m glad they got smacked down on this.

  18. Moriarty says:

    I dunno. The thing does have filters, they just aren’t filling the role of what one normally calls a “vacuum cleaner filter.” If they’re part of the design and it won’t function *exactly* as specified without them, does that mean it “relies on” them? Seems like a gray area. I’d say the ruling is probably unecessary but still quite defensible. Plus, Dyson can avoid the whole issue with a simple clarification.

  19. HarshLanguage says:

    There are times that I really admire the ASA. All the disgustingly deceitful ads that I see on US TV could use a good regulatory whacking.

    This is not one of those times, though. The ruling is based on some silly semantic wrangling. Dyson acted in good faith from what I can tell, but still got swept aside.

  20. Anonymous says:

    the suction from my Dyson dropped to nothing last week. why? filter was clogged.

    a quick rinse and dry and it was as good as new.

  21. hallpass says:

    Dyson lost my respect, and my vacuum cleaner dollars, after it ran an ad on US TV extolling the virtues of the Dyson’s brushless motors.

    Fine, brushless may be superior technology. I’m up for anything that provides an advance on 1850s tech, but the selling point was a complete and utter boondogle used to cash in on a buzzword.

    The advert claimed that because there were no carbon brushes to create dust, the Dyson vacuum created fewer CARBON EMISSIONS!

    That goes beyond stretching the truth to seperating fools from their money.

  22. IHR2 says:

    I had seen these advertisements and thought them wrong. Surely part of the point of an advertising regulator is to stop advertisements which may be technically accurate but are in fact misleading?

  23. TJ S says:

    I’m just glad that somebody’s finally pulled the plug on these ads that have been sweeping the UK and USA.

  24. PrettyBoyTim says:

    I had a Dyson that got clogged. I was never able to get it to work properly again. I think it was because some builders decided to use it to clear up some plaster dust.

    It may use bags, by I much prefer my little Henry. Also, it’s half the price and about half as loud. It can also handle plaster dust.

  25. jjasper says:

    Roomba FTW. No strain on my RSI.

  26. technogeek says:

    Of course, these days there are a transfinite number of other uprights using cyclonic separation with filters for the finest stuff… so it’s unclear that Dyson still has much to boast about other than having been early into that market.

    And I agree that it isn’t at all clear that the Dyson clogs less than a traditional filter-bag vacuum… since its filters, as noted, CAN clog.

    The usual rule here in the states is that you can always claim your product is the Best — that’s puffery and accepted practice, since obviously if it wasn’t Best in some regard (best profit?) you wouldn’t be selling it — but if you claim it’s Better in any specific regard you need to be able to prove it or risk falling afoul of false-advertising laws.

  27. technogeek says:

    I’m also reminded of the old observation that if Microsoft brought out a vacuum, it probably wouldn’t suck…

  28. Anonymous says:

    I’m a severe asthmatic, and have to pay a lot of attention to using a decent vacuum cleaner.

    Cyclonic vacuums don’t filter out smaller dust particles and dust mites as well as conventional bag vacuums. Most of the cheap crummy ones don’t compensate for this at all and small particles are just spit out with the “clean” air. It still *looks* equally effective, as the particles it misses are microscopic, but there is a noticeable difference in air quality after using the two.

    Decent/expensive cyclonic ones will include a HEPA (or similar standard) filter to remove the smaller particles, but this still gets cloged and requires replacing (less often than the bags on conventional devices).

    BTW, you can’t clean out a real HEPA filter with soap and water and have it come out “good as new” – it will still have lots of small particles embedded in it. Cleaning out a real HEPA filter like that is all but impossible, and if air quality matters to you there is no substitute for replacing it. I use a room filter in my bedroom 24/7, and it needs a filter replacement once every 8-9 months.

    Dyson-like cleaners aren’t as “uncloggable” or as effective as they are claimed to be, and I’m glad to see them finally called on it.

  29. Takuan says:

    but does it blow?

  30. Downpressor says:

    BBG needs a nanny state tag.
    People who think all products are perfect get what they deserve.

  31. debcha says:

    As a font geek, I have to say that the use of typography in this ad is wonderful.

  32. andyhavens says:

    Natch; your ad whores a vacuum.

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