BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Reviews Advertising Claims for Rental Carpet Cleaners, Following Challenges by Rug Doctor, Bissell

New York, NY – Feb. 25, 2013 – The National Advertising Division recently decided two separate cases involving rental carpet-cleaning machines. The first challenge was brought by Rug Doctor, Inc., which took issue with advertising claims made by Bissell Homecare, Inc., in a YouTube video and in broadcast advertising and advertising at Bissell’s website. The second challenge was brought by Bissell, which took issue with claims made by Rug Doctor in broadcast, Internet and print advertising.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

In the first case, Rug Doctor challenged claims in Bissell’s “This vs. That” advertising campaign, including:

• “Why Settle for That When You Can Rent This?”
• “Why use a brush like that, when you can use a brush like this?”
• “Better cleaning action”

NAD also examined whether a featured side-by-side demonstration implied that Rug Doctor’s product does not clean carpets at all.

By way of background, NAD noted, Bissell and Rug Doctor compete in the home carpet wet extraction machines rental business. Rug Doctor has been in the market for more than 40 years; Bissell began competing with Rug Doctor in 2010.

In its challenge against Bissell, Rug Doctor contended the video image in “This vs. That” was untruthful, misleading and falsely denigrating. In the video, the Bissell’s “Big Green” machine dramatically cleaned carpet with one forward and backward pass, Rug Doctor’s “Mighty Pro” showed no visible cleaning after the same pass. Rug Doctor also challenged Bissell’s claim that its brushes are 76 inches whereas Rug Doctor’s brushes are 19 inches.

It is well established that when using a comparative demonstration to show differences in product performance, an advertiser should avoid overstating the extent of any demonstrated superiority. In this case, NAD noted, Bissell’s own testing showed that the Rug Doctor Might Pro, used as directed, visibly cleans the carpet. As a result, NAD recommended that Bissell discontinue the challenged video depiction used in the “This vs. That” video.

Following its review of Bissell’s claim that its brush length is “76 inches” while the Rug Doctor brush length is “19 inches,” NAD noted that Bissell’s brush is coiled so that only a portion of the brush is in contact with the carpet, while Rug Doctor brush is uncoiled so that all of its bristles are in contact with the carpet the entire time it is cleaning.

NAD noted that there was no evidence linking the length of the brush to cleaning capability and determined that the comparison did not offer consumer meaningful information. NAD recommended Bissell discontinue the claim.

In the second case – Bissell’s challenge to Rug Doctor advertising – NAD determined that Rug Doctor could support a narrowly qualified “outcleans” advertising claim. However, NAD recommended that Rug Doctor modify or discontinue certain advertising claims, including claims that Rug Doctor “cleans faster” and “costs less” to use than Bissell’s Big Green.

NAD examined claims made in broadcast, print and Internet advertising, including:

• “Rug Doctor outcleans the competition”
• “Rug Doctor cleans 2x faster [than Bissell]”
• “Other carpet cleaners can cost 3 times more.”
• Rug Doctor “Cleans Better. Cleans Faster. Costs Less.”
• “Superior Clean, Fastest Results, Best Value”

In this case, Rug Doctor relied on X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF), which measure debris removal, to support its “outcleans” claim.

NAD had noted in a previous decision that while XRF testing is not the definitive test for measuring carpet cleaning, its methodology and test soil did have sufficient acceptance in the industry for NAD to find that the test provides a reasonable basis to support a qualified claim. As NAD noted in its earlier decision, “it is well-established that although claim support must be reliable, it need not be perfect.”

NAD determined that Rug Doctor provided a reasonable basis for an “outcleans” claim, if the claim is modified to clearly and conspicuously disclose that is based on measurements of debris removal. Absent such a disclosure, NAD recommended Rug Doctor discontinue the “outcleans” claim.

NAD recommended Rug Doctor discontinue use of a video-comparison of the products that NAD concluded did not accurately reflect the results consumers would typically obtain. Further, NAD recommended that Rug Doctor discontinue its “cleans faster” claim. NAD noted, however, that nothing in its decision precludes Rug Doctor from communicating to consumers the ease of cleaning with one or two passes of the Rug Doctor machine.

Finally, NAD recommended that Rug Doctor modify its “costs less” claim and discontinue its claim that use of a Bissell machine “can cost 3x more.”

NAD noted in its decision that there are variables related to the purchase and use of the Rug Doctor cleaning products that make it inappropriate to make a quantified comparative claim. For example, NAD noted, Rug Doctor’s cleaning products can be diluted at two or four ounces per gallon of water and consumers may need to refill their water tank more often when cleaning with the Rug Doctor machine than with the Bissell Big Green.

Both Bissell and Rug Doctor, in separate advertiser’s statements, expressed their appreciation to NAD and their support of the self-regulatory process.