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ASA Adjudication on Geartronics Ltd

Geartronics Ltd

21 Robert Road
Meadowhead
Sheffield
S8 7TL

Date:

2 May 2012

Media:

Internet (on own site)

Sector:

Business

Number of complaints:

1

Complaint Ref:

A11-175980

Background

Summary of Council Decision:

Seven issues were investigated, all of which were upheld.

Ad

A website, www.geartronics.co.uk for Geartronics gearbox systems seen during November 2011, stated "Home of the worlds [sic] Best Sequential gearbox Electronic systems" at the top of the homepage.

A web page headed "Advantages of pneumatic over electric solenoid" stated:

"3. Air actuators do not suffer a reduction in force output when the temperature increases.

4. Pneumatic systems do not take large amounts of energy from the vehicle electrical system in one shot. The air compressor consumes a small amount of electrical power over a longer period ... Switching high powered 12v solenoids can place a high transient demand on the vehicle electrical system unless used in conjunction with a GCU that can store the required energy between shifts.

5. Air actuators do not require high current cables and control units. High-powered solenoids require heavy cables to deliver the very high current that is drawn from the electrical system.

6. Air actuators provide a 'cushion' of compressed air, which means they are mechanically compliant and do not impose potentially damaging shock loadings on the shift mechanism".

A web page headed "Frequently Asked Questions" stated:

"1. Temperature stability. The force produced by a pneumatic actuator is simply a function of the piston area and operating pressure, it is not affected by temperature, unlike an electric solenoid. The force produced by electric solenoids reduces significantly with increased temperature.

6. Shift force adjustment. The force output from an air actuator is very easily adjusted. If you need more force, you simply increase the air pressure, rather than having to fit a bigger and heavier solenoid...".

“Q. Why should I choose a Geartronics paddleshift system over other kits on the market?

A. Our system has been developed over many years of top level motorsport. It was selected as the control system used in the F3000 series from 2008 - with 100% finishing reliability! With Geartronics you get the best quality, functionality, reliability & service. We believe our control strategy is one of the most sophisticated on the market. Additionally, we design & manufacture all our own parts, including the GCU. So if you need support, we can give you the answer you need immediately, rather than having to wait for a 3rd party supplier. We also write all our own software, and can respond to feature requests usually within days rather than months".

Issue

Pro-Shift Ltd challenged whether the claims:

1. "Home of the worlds [sic] Best Sequential gearbox Electronic systems" on the home page misleadingly implied that Geartronics products had been tested in comparison to all other gearshift systems;

2. "With Geartronics you get the best quality, functionality, reliability & service" misleadingly implied that Geartronics products had been tested in comparison to all other gearshift systems;

3. "The force output from an air actuator is very easily adjusted. If you need more force, you simply increase the air pressure, rather than having to fit a bigger and heavier solenoid" was misleading;

4. "Air actuators do not suffer a reduction in force output when the temperature increases" and "The force produced by electric solenoids reduces significantly with increased temperature" were misleading;

5. "Pneumatic systems do not take large amounts of energy from the vehicle electrical system in one shot .. Switching high powered 12v solenoids can place a high transient demand on the vehicle electrical system" was misleading;

6. "High-powered solenoids require heavy cables to deliver the very high current that is drawn from the electrical system" was misleading; and

7. "Actuators provide a "cushion" of compressed air, which means they are mechanically compliant and do not impose potentially damaging shock loading on the shift mechanism" misleadingly implied solenoids imposed potentially damaging shock loadings.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

Response

1. Geartronics Ltd (Geartronics) said the use of the word "best" in this context was clearly a subjective claim.

2. Geartronics said the use of the word "best" in this claim was clearly subjective opinion, and would not be expected to be backed by objective data.

3. Geartronics said the force provided by an electric solenoid was a function of the number of turns of copper wire it contained and the current that passed through these turns. Therefore, to produce more power a larger solenoid was required. They said that suppliers of electric solenoids, such as Proshift Ltd (Proshift), offered a variety of sizes of solenoids for this reason. They said that, in contrast to this, the power produced by an air actuator was governed only by the air pressure it operated at and not the battery voltage of the car. They provided a graph which they said showed the differing force outputs of three sizes of electric solenoids.

4. Geartronics said it was an established scientific fact that the force output of all electric solenoids decreased when temperature increased, regardless of design or application. They provided links to a number of online articles and information that they said confirmed this. They provided a graph that related to Pro-Shift's solenoids, and said this demonstrated a 30% reduction in force when hot. Geartronics also supplied copies of two pages of the Proshift PS3 set-up manual, and pointed out that it recommended ducting cooling air to the solenoid when fitted in a hot cab, and warned against unnecessary heating of the solenoid coils. They said that as a driver's cab was only likely to reach modest temperatures, this demonstrated that performance would be reduced even in these modest temperatures.

5. Geartronics said air actuators had an air pressure reservoir that stored the required energy for use as and when required. They said this compressor worked for 25–30% of the time, and gradually converted electrical energy into potential energy in the form of compressed air. They explained this meant the transient demand on the vehicle electrical system when changing gears is very low, as the energy required to make the shift was already available. They said the compressor operates for approximately two seconds to store enough pressure for each gear shift, and, as each gear shift takes approximately 1/20 of a second, that meant the transient load on the electrical system is reduced by a factor of 40. They said that in contrast to this, a solenoid operated system took all the required energy from the vehicle electrical system all in one go, during the 1/20 of a second that it takes to changes gear, and that the transient demand is therefore much higher. They confirmed that, as referred to in their ad, some solenoid gearshift systems use an electrical control unit that stores the required electrical energy, meaning the transient demand is reduced.

6. Geartronics said the word "heavy" did not necessarily refer to the physical weight of the wires, but was terminology used in the electronics industry and could be more accurately described as "heavy current". They also said that electric solenoids did require a higher current to function than pneumatic solenoids, and that the cables would therefore be naturally thicker and heavier.

7. Geartronics said that the potential for damage was at the end of the stroke. They said that at the end of a stroke in an electric solenoid, the armature wants to keep going, but is stopped by the gearbox mechanism. They said that with an air actuator there was a cushion of compressed air behind the actuator piston, and it therefore comes to rest more gently. They said the function of an air actuator was akin to a car airbag, and that the solenoid armature behaves more like a hammer and so had the potential to cause damage. They provided a link to a web article that they said discussed the potential harm that can be caused by a fast moving and heavy solenoid armature. Geartronics also pointed out the claim only stated that an air actuator does not have the potential to cause damage, and not that electric solenoids do cause damage.

Assessment

1. Upheld

The ASA noted that Geartronics believed the claim "Home of the worlds [sic] Best Sequential gearbox Electronic systems" was subjective. However, we also noted the web page went on to refer to the "enviable reputation" of the company, and that they had "come to be regarded as one of the very best". We considered that in this context consumers would be likely to view the claim as objective, and expect it to be supported by robust comparative evidence. We noted we had not seen any evidence to substantiate the claim, and therefore concluded the claim was misleading.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).

2. Upheld

We noted that Geartronics believed the claim "With Geartronics you get the best quality, functionality, reliability & service" was subjective opinion. However, we also noted that the claim appeared in answer to this question "Why should I choose a Geartronics paddleshift system over other kits on the market?" which we considered meant consumers were more likely to view the claim as an objective comparative claim. We also considered that because the claim specifically referred to "quality, functionality, reliability & service" as "best" consumers would interpret the claim as objective, and expect it to be backed by robust evidence in relation to all other kits on the market. We noted we had not seen any evidence to substantiate the claim, and therefore concluded the claim was misleading.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.33 and 3.35 (Comparisons).

3. Upheld

We noted Geartronics said that to increase the maximum force of an electric solenoid it was necessary to fit a larger solenoid, and that this was the basis for the claim. However, we also noted that the claim referred to adjusting the force, not just increasing the maximum force. We noted Pro-Shift had told us that their electric solenoid had the facility to be adjusted from 1 to 100% for each individual shift, and that Geartronics had not disputed this. We considered that the claim implied that the only way to adjust the force of an electric solenoid was to fit a larger solenoid, and because this was not the case we concluded that the claim was misleading.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.33 and 3.35 (Comparisons).

4. Upheld

We acknowledged that it was established science that the resistance within the wires of an electric solenoid would increase with temperature, and that this would lead to a corresponding reduction in force output. However, we considered that the claims implied that the reduction in force as a result of increased temperature would be of a high level and would be significant to consumers when making their choice of product, particularly because the ad stated that the force would reduce "significantly". We acknowledged that the evidence from the Pro-Shift manual indicated that it was desirable to keep the solenoid at as low a temperature as possible. However, we considered that we had not seen evidence that the reduction in force produced by electric solenoids, when used in gearbox systems, was of such a level that it was of significance to consumers. We therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.33 and 3.35 (Comparisons).

5. Upheld

We noted that Geartronics had explained the basis of the claim, and that they believed the transient demand of an electrical solenoid system would be higher than that of an air actuator, unless it used an electrical control unit that stored the required electrical energy. We considered that the use of the word "high" in the claim implied that the difference in transient demand would be significant to consumers when making their choice of product. We noted that Geartronics had not provided any evidence in relation to the transient demands, or its significance to consumers. We therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.33 and 3.35 (Comparisons).

6. Upheld

We noted that Geartronics said that "heavy" referred to "heavy current", rather than the weight of the cables, but that they did believe electric solenoids required heavier cables than air actuators. We considered that the claim implied that electric solenoids required cables that would be heavier than those used by air actuators, and that the weight difference would be significant to consumers when making their choice of product. We noted that Geartronics had not provided any evidence in relation to the weight of the cables, or its significance to consumers. We therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.33 and 3.35 (Comparisons).

7. Upheld

We noted that the claim only referred to air actuators. However, because the claim appeared on a web page headed "Advantages of pneumatic over electric solenoid" we considered the claim implied that electric solenoids imposed potentially damaging shock loadings on the shift mechanism. We noted that Geartronics had explained how the different mechanisms worked and referred us to a web article they said confirmed this. However, we noted that the article only stated that if a solenoid generated forces much greater than required, then this energy needed to be dissipated in a manner that was not harmful to the solenoid or the mechanism it was driving. We also noted that the article indicated that it was possible to adapt mechanisms to ensure damage did not occur. Because the advertiser had not supplied any evidence that electric solenoids did impose potentially damaged shock loadings on the shift mechanism we concluded that the claim was misleading.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.33 and 3.35 (Comparisons).

Action

We told Geartronics to remove the claims in their current form and to ensure they held robust evidence to substantiate objective comparative claims in their future advertising.

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