Face mask advert banned by regulator for being 'misleading'

12 August 2020, 06:24

The advert claimed its reusable and disposable masks provided users with "protection against bacteria and viruses"
The advert claimed its reusable and disposable masks provided users with "protection against bacteria and viruses". Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

An advert which "implied" a range of face masks could protect the wearer from coronavirus has been banned by the regulator for being misleading.

The advert which was published in The Sun newspaper on May 9 claimed reusable and disposable masks provided users with "protection against bacteria and viruses".

Easylife Group Ltd's advert featured text running alongside one of the three face mask products featured on the page also said its protective layers filter "95% of airborne particles".

But in a ruling published on Wednesday, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the ad was "misleading" as it gave the impression the masks protect the wearer from Covid-19.

Text featured in the advert that read "support the NHS", while also stating the products did not impact on the health service's supplies, was also found to be misleading, the regulator said.

The ASA ruled the inclusion of text "implied the products were of a standard that could be used by the NHS, but had been sourced separately".

"It further contributed to the overall impression that the products could protect the wearer," the regulator said.

The ASA said Easylife Group Ltd had not specified the level to which the mask had been tested under European Standards, nor provided the test results.

In response, the company said the products offered in the ad were "barrier masks" that provided a function beyond that of a face covering, but the ASA said they did not meet the criteria for personal protective equipment (PPE).

Easylife denied its advert suggested or implied the usage of its masks was endorsed by authorities or was suitable for use in specific high-risk environments.

"They (Easylife Group) believed that any reasonably-informed person would understand that there were a variety of ways to contract Covid-19 and inhaling droplets was only one of those," the ASA's ruling said.

"They said they had made claims about helping to stem the flow of droplets and airborne particulates in good faith, as supported by testing and the available applicable evidence."

The ASA said while responsible advertising for face coverings was "desirable", it was important that companies do not mislead consumers about the capabilities of their products.

It said that guidance from Public Health England stated face coverings do not necessarily protect the wearer, but may protect others if the wearer is infected and has not developed symptoms.

"The ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand that all three products had the ability to protect the individual wearer from infection with Covid-19," the regulator said.

It added the company had not provided "adequate evidence" to "substantiate the impression given by the ad" that the masks shown could help protect the user from coronavirus.

The ASA has told Easylife Group Ltd "not to state or imply" that the face mask products presented in the advert were likely to protect the wearer from airborne infections, including Covid-19, unless they had sufficient evidence to show that they had been tested to, and met, PPE standards.

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