Samsung’s 70% Energy Savings Claim Comes under Scrutiny

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With the controversy trailing the claim that Samsung’s Eco bubble range of washing machines, remove stains from fabrics even with cold water, Raheem Akingbolu asks that regulatory agencies be more reactive and proactive in responding to issues that border on consumer abuse and misleading campaigns

 

While struggling to outplay one another in their various creative zones, advertising agencies are often warned by regulators to watch out for words that can mislead consumers.  In particular, the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) has said in many fora that it would not tolerate misleading campaigns that tend to swindle consumers and possibly endanger their lives.  Of course, this also extends to business and brand owners, who come to market with various promises.

Brand Promise is important to brand positioning and growth. That is why brand management experts urge business owners to always think twice about the consequence of not keeping the promise before crafting one.  Crafting a brand promise means following through on a sustained building of trust that nurtures customer loyalty.  To this end, experts often advise marketers on the need to rethink brand strategies to ensure that they deliver on promises.

 

Global electronics manufacturer, Samsung, appeared to have erred in this direction, over the brand promise of one of its products; Ecobubble range, a watching machine.  The unique feature of this range of washing machines, according to Samsung, is that it removes stains from fabrics even while using cold water, thereby saving a whopping 70 percent energy for the user.

At a time manufacturers of watching machines are competing for the minds of Nigeria consumers as a result of switching from manual laundering to machine, the campaign quickly attracted traction in the market. Aside Samsung, other manufacturers are also not living any stone unturned in their desperate move to position their products and this has given birth to more innovative products.

According to promoters of Samsung, its new product uses bubble technology in the eight kilogramme drum to effectively remove stains on cooler settings just as in warm water. Through this, the company argues that the machine saves up to 70 percent of the energy which the warm setting would have used up.

Debate over the claim

As soon as handlers of the Samsung brand began to enjoy the euphoria that greeted their new product, questions sprang up from some quarters over whether the claim was true or not. First, some Nigerians had curiously dug into the record of how the same claim had landed the global brand in trouble in Australia.

It was reported that few years ago, the said energy saving claims had pitted the Korean firm with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission with a court enforceable undertaking following ACCC concerns that Samsung may have breached the Australian Consumer Law by misrepresenting the energy savings of its Bubble Wash washing machines compared to conventional washing machines. The ACCC’s concerns relate to the energy savings representations made by Samsung in an in-store demonstration kit featuring a promotional video. The ACCC considers that the comparative energy savings representations made in the demonstration kit and incorporated promotional video were likely to have been misleading as Samsung represented that its Bubble Wash washing machines when using cold water offered significant energy savings over conventional washing machines using cold water, when this was not the case.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, chairman, Rod Sims, “It is important for consumers not to be misled by manufacturers’ comparative advertising claims.” “Where a company compares the energy savings that can be obtained from its own product with other competing products on the market, the comparisons made must be accurate, thereby enabling consumers to make informed purchasing decisions,” Mr. Sims said.

But recent visits by this reporter to the Ogba, Lagos’ Samsung showroom where the said eco bubble machine products were on display. A sales representative at the store though admitted that the global brand was actually sanctioned by some countries over the energy saving claims, he was quick to add that it hadn’t attract any query from any Nigeria agency . The sales man explained that the energy saving claim simply works by the machine mixing air bubbles in with the water and detergent which gets detergent into the fabric 40% faster allowing lower temperatures to achieve good results using 70% less energy.

 

Response to competition

In what looked like a direct response to competition, not long after the news hit the Nigerian market that another global electronics and home appliances manufacturer, LG Electronics, countered the claim and followed up with its own product.  Handlers of the LG brand described their version as the real deal as well as telling those who cared to listen that the recent claim in the market that a particular product had the capacity of saving up to 70 percent energy as nothing but ruse.

The products tagged expanded range of LG Washing machines include; Turbo Wash, 6Motion, Twin Wash, Front Load/ Top Load. All of them ride on the back of a touted super tech called the Direct Drive, DD, motor technology and were all said to be specifically designed for simple living.

 Introducing the product line recently, an official of the company, Mr. Olugbenga Ogunbayo said that washing machines from LG Electronics are designed with human-centric features, in consideration of the interest of numerous consumers anywhere in the world. According to him; “Against the background that most washing machines are able to carry out just one wash motion, this necessitated the introduction of the LG 6-Motion washing machine which has the capacity to replicate six different wash motions for every fabric type. “These washing machines ride on the back of DD motor, which makes it possible for 6 different motions which include scrubbing, stepping, swing and rolling motion like a real hard wash would do. It is fabric sensitive and as such helps to select appropriate motions for better washing performance with less damage by selecting stepping or scrubbing for stains and swing or rolling for delicate clothes”.

He also challenged the Samsung’s 70 percent energy saving claim saying that “unlike other washing machine brands that are laying claim to saving 70 per cent energy when using cold water, it is common knowledge that using 15 degree tap water can save 60-70 per cent of energy compared to 40 degree heated water, so that claim tells nothing new. ‘We can also confirm to you that LG washing machines genuinely save 60-70 per cent energy in 15 degree tap water cycle compared to 40 degree warm water cycle but the clincher is the ability to undertake six tasks at the same time, thereby saving a lot more time and energy. “In 2015 LG DD (Direct Drive) in washing machines was certified by Verband Deutsher Rlekrotechniker as a product with a life span of 20 years which is the longest to be so certified by VDE in recent times. This is to confirm the reliability and durability of LG washing machines which is what every consumer desire in a product. ‘What we want consumers to always do is crosscheck claims on every product before buying because some manufacturers come to Africa to dump products that have attracted them fines and penalties in other climes” he added. Apparently, this war could only be settled at the doorstep of women who the products are particularly targeted at. The washing machine, perhaps, more than any other home appliance, is of great help and relief to women, particularly the working class, in handling their laundry at the home front.

Since response from competing brands and some experts cannot be said to be totally objective because of vested interest, one will expect that the intervention from the Standard Organisation of Nigeria and Consumer Protection Council can unravel the knotty issue.

Samsung Responds

Meanwhile, in response to THISDAY enquairy over the issue, Samsung responded through its Public Relations agency in Nigeria -XLR8 and insisted that the product meets the Nigerian energy efficiency standards. “Its products are routinely tested in accordance with harmonised Nigerian standards to make sure that advertised energy ratings are accurate and fully compliant with the standards set. Samsung is very proud of its energy saving technology, which is helping its customers to save energy every day. And it are committed to innovating more in this area to further minimise our impact on the environment,” the company stated.