An advert which “implied” a range of face masks could protect the wearer from coronavirus has been banned for being misleading.
Easylife Group Ltd’s advert published in The Sun newspaper on 9 May claimed its reusable and disposable masks provided users with “protection against bacteria and viruses”.
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 its ruling, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) said it ” considered that consumers were likely to understand that all three products had the ability to protect the individual wearer from infection with COVID-19“.
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.
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.