BBB National Programs Archive
NAD Recommends ACCEL Discontinue Challenged Claims for ‘CataClean’ Fuel Additive
New York, NY – March 25, 2014 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that ACCEL Performance Group discontinue advertising claims that its “CataClean” fuel additive cleans catalytic converters.
NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
CRC Industries, Inc., the manufacturer of competing products, challenged claims made in website, television, labeling, press release, and social media advertising, including:
- “Cleans and Protects your Catalytic Converter”
- “CataClean will first clean your vehicles’ fuel system, improving cylinder fuel burning. Then it cleans the surface of the catalytic converter improving gas flow and reducing emissions.”
- “CataClean is a fuel and exhaust system cleaner that reduces carbon build-up and cleans your vehicle’s catalytic converter.”
CRC also challenged ACCEL’s use of the name “CataClean.”
In this case, the advertiser submitted its evidence of substantiation to NAD on a confidential basis, as provided for in the NAD/CARU/NARB Procedures. NAD noted in its decision that it has recognized “the legitimate purpose of allowing companies to submit certain evidence on a confidential basis but also strongly encourages companies to provide their evidence in full to allow meaningful review.”
Challenger CRC voiced legitimate concerns regarding its inability to meaningfully comment on unseen evidence, NAD noted. It was with this balance of interests in mind that NAD assessed the advertiser’s claim support.
Following its review of the advertiser’s evidence, NAD noted that many of the studies referenced by ACCEL were studies showing that CataClean reduces total hydrocarbon emissions, in some cases by up to 50%.
NAD found that emissions studies by their nature failed to demonstrate whether CataClean could clean a vehicle’s catalytic converter as advertised or whether lower emissions were influenced by factors other than the product’s effect on the catalytic converter. Although ACCEL quoted an engineer who conducted some of this testing as stating that the reduction in emissions could be attributed to the product’s ability to regenerate the catalytic converter, NAD observed that the testing itself failed to demonstrate this fact.
NAD reached the same conclusion regarding ACCEL’s testing regarding fuel efficiency. Even presuming that gas mileage was improved using CataClean, NAD noted that this effect could have been achieved for reasons other than the product’s effect on the catalytic converter.
NAD’s concerns about the advertiser’s substantiation were underscored by the findings of the United Kingdom’s advertising regulatory forum, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA.) In 2006, the ASA “advised that the product was extremely unlikely to survive the combustion process and reach the exhaust catalyst.”
Although the ASA finding alone would not have caused NAD to dismiss otherwise reliable claim support, the ASA’s skepticism about the product’s mechanism of action sharpened NAD’s existing concerns.
Following its review, NAD concluded that the evidence in the record did not provide a reasonable basis for ACCEL’s claim that CataClean cleans vehicles’ catalytic converters. NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim.
NAD noted in its decision that it did not agree with the challenger that the name of the product must be changed. As it has held in previous decisions, NAD is reluctant to recommend that a product name be changed in the absence of extrinsic evidence showing that consumers are misled.
ACCEL took issue with NAD’s decision. The company, in its advertiser’s statement, said that “the claims and testing at issue in the current proceeding vary greatly from the 2006 European matter, so the ASA findings should have been irrelevant in this matter.”
Further, the company said, it believes its evidence “fully substantiates its ‘cleans catalytic converters’ claim. Specifically, ACCEL’s evidence includes: (1) findings by Robert Vernon Ainscow, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemists in the UK that the claim is supported; (2) an explanation of the science behind CataClean; (3) a patent which supports that the product is functional; (4) statements from independent testing engineers that the product has a beneficial effect on catalytic converters which contributes to reduced emissions; and (5) multiple independent tests which show the product decreases vehicle emissions by using the product to regenerate a poor functioning catalyst.
“Despite the above,” the company said, “ACCEL respects the self-regulation process and appreciates the NAD’s careful examination of this matter. ACCEL will take NAD’s recommendations into account in future advertising.”