BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Examines Elecrtolux Advertising, Following Challenge By Whirlpool

New York, NY – April 16, 2009 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Electrolux Home Products modify the broadcast, print and Internet advertising claim that the Electrolux Cooktop Induction Stove “boils water in ninety seconds.”

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined the claim following a challenge by Whirlpool, a competing maker of home appliances.

NAD, in its decision, noted that the Cooktop Induction stove is an induction hybrid luxury kitchen appliance that utilizes electromagnetic energy in one element, producing 3,200 watts that transfer heat directly to the cookware on the element. Electrolux refers to this technology as the Power Boost function.

NAD noted the cooktop does, by all accounts, represent a meaningful innovation in cooking and that NAD has long supported the right of advertisers to distinguish their products from their competitors’ by touting distinctive technological advances.

However, NAD noted, the claim at issue is not simply one of boiling speed, but instead is an unqualified quantified performance claim that promises the calculable benefit that the induction element boils water in ninety seconds.  Given that this claim is unqualified, NAD determined consumers could reasonably understand it to mean that the Cooktop can boil any amount of water in any size pot in ninety seconds. 

When confronted with an unqualified and quantified claim, NAD must determine whether the supporting evidence is grounded in sound methodology, yields consumer relevant results and closely reflects the test results upon which it is based.

NAD noted that, in this case, the advertiser conducted eighteen tests over three different units, using tap water, and produced results that were statistically significant. NAD was concerned, however, that the advertiser’s limited testing did not match the breadth of its unqualified “boils water in ninety seconds” claim.

As an initial matter, it is undisputed that only one heating element  (the ten-inch diameter induction element with the Power Boost setting engaged) will boil one quart of water in a ten-inch diameter pot in ninety seconds. However, depending on the size of the stove, the Cooktop also has two or three electric elements. NAD determined that it is not clear from the challenged advertisements that a consumer can achieve a slow boil in ninety seconds only on one of the elements using a ten-inch pot. 

More importantly, NAD determined that boiling one quart of water in a six-quart pot was not reasonable or consumer relevant, given that one quart of water in a six-quart pot amounts to a water level of less than ¾ of an inch.  Stepping into the role of the consumer, and as a matter of common sense, NAD determined that ¾ of an inch of water in a six-quart pot is too shallow to cook a single serving of pasta or indeed most foods.

NAD determined that the message conveyed within the context of contested advertising was that a cook could boil water to prepare enough pasta for a large gathering.

NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its claim “boils water in ninety seconds” in the context in which it appears in the challenged advertisements.  Further, NAD recommended that in any future advertising containing the ninety-second claim that the advertiser clearly and conspicuous limit the claim to the unique set of circumstances under which the ninety-second boil was achieved.

NAD noted that its decision is specifically limited to the ninety-second boiling claim. There is nothing in the decision that prevents the advertiser from claiming that its induction hybrid is an innovative technology that boils water rapidly, NAD said.

Electrolux, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “respectfully disagrees with NAD’s determination that the advertisements at issue make an unqualified claim that the Hybrid Cooktop could boil any amount of water in any size pot in 90 seconds, including enough water to prepare pasta for a large gathering.  It also disagrees with NAD’s finding that some of Electrolux’s test parameters, including the use of one quart of water in a six-quart pot, were unreasonable and lacked consumer relevance.”

Notwithstanding such disagreement, the company said, “Electrolux supports the spirit of cooperation in the self-regulatory process and will take NAD’s recommendations into account in its future advertising.”