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Clearing the Air: HVAC&R Advertising Compliance

With ARBS 2024 almost upon us, HVAC&R businesses big and small are fiercely preparing their banners, brochures, and marketing stands for the industry’s premier trade expo. If past experience is any guide, the event will be awash with bold claims about everything from cost, reliability, energy efficiency, and even the ability to cool the sun! Well maybe not the last one, but you get the point.

Misleading Claims? Don’t Let Them Blow Through Your Vents!

In the world of HVAC&R, honesty is the best policy, and we’re not just talking about your thermostat settings. Jokes aside, this is important: The provisions of the Australian Consumer Law include very hefty fines for false and misleading conduct – for the worst of breaches, all the way up to $50 million or 30% of adjusted business revenue.

Any information or claim a business makes about its products or services must be as reliable as a well-maintained compressor. That means no fibbing about prices, no photoshopping air conditioners to look cooler than they are, and definitely no claiming your HVAC system can make ice in the desert.

This rule applies everywhere: whether it’s in your advertising, on your product packaging, or even in those overly enthusiastic social media posts. Remember, any statement that gives a false impression about our beloved heating and cooling systems can lead to serious consequences. So let’s keep our claims as cool as a perfectly balanced climate control system – accurate, reliable, and never leaving customers out in the cold.

“Puffery” is OK

This refers to wildly exaggerated and vague claims about a product or service that no one could treat seriously. For example, a fast food outlet claims they have the ‘best burgers on earth’. These types of statements are generally not considered misleading.

So in our sector, statements along these lines should be quite safe:

  • A HVAC&R distributor claiming that they supply the “coolest split-systems in Melbourne”, or the “hottest hot water units in town”
  • A refrigeration parts supplier claiming that “Our parts and fittings are second to none”
  • Or a ventilation company boasting they have “fans so powerful, they could blow the toupee off a bald eagle”

Certification Claims

In the HVAC&R sector, product compliance with mandatory industry standards and codes can be critical. Everything from Building laws, the National Construction Code, and Electrical regulation have compliance requirements.

Now, when a business has its product tested by an accredited lab, there can be a tendency to use this as the basis to make sweeping claims about products.

But here again, caution is important. Does your lab test report give you the right to making sweeping statements like: “All of our products have been certified to comply with AS 1668”. Or “Buy our new unit and rest assured that you will never fall foul of AS/NZS 5149”.

Our best advice – avoid the above statements.

Instead, include “lower risk” wording such as:

  • Complies with AS 1668
  • AS/NZS 5149 ✅

Comparative Advertising: Keeping it Honest

When it comes to comparative advertising, honesty is our best policy. To steer clear of potential legal headaches and hefty fines, here are a couple of tips:

  • Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples (or in our case, HVAC systems to HVAC systems). It’s not fair to pit your top-of-the-line, locally manufactured split system against a budget model from China.
  • Keep your claims accurate throughout the promotion period. If you boast that your product is 30% cheaper than the competition, keep tabs on their pricing to ensure there are no sudden price drops that could make your claim ring hollow.

While adhering to these guidelines can significantly reduce the risk of misleading or deceptive advertising, it’s wise to stay prepared for complaints. Like a sudden summer storm, complaints can arise unexpectedly, particularly from competitors feeling the heat of your marketing efforts. Whether it’s a formal complaint to the ACCC or Ad Standards or a disgruntled letter from a solicitor, being ready to weather the storm is all part of keeping our advertising as cool and collected as our air conditioning units.

Want some FREE legal advice on your HVAC&R advertising compliance?

We’re experts in the field and are ready to help. Reach out and we’ll line up a free initial consultation to take a look at your advertising campaign and identify any risky marketing claims needing attention. Simply contact us via our online enquiry form, by calling on 03 8683 5645 or by emailing us at [email protected]

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