After an appeal was heard by a National Advertising Review Board panel on April 16, BP Lubricants has agreed to drop its sludge superiority claims for its Castrol GTX Brand Motor Oil. BP had appealed the October 2008 findings of the Better Business Bureaus National Advertising Division, recommending BP modify or discontinue the disputed advertising claims following a challenge by Pennzoil-Quaker State.
Following deliberation, the panel recommended that:
"BP America discontinue its Œsuperior sludge protection" and "57% better" claims, or any other sludge superiority claims based on the submitted M271 tests." The panel further recommended that BP America discontinue its claims that Castrol GTX passed the ‘industry¹s toughest sludge standard.’
The panel concluded "Given the amount of time that has passed since the initiation of this challenge, as well as the significant deficiencies in the substantiation offered in support of the claims, the panel hopes that BP America will promptly discontinue the challenged advertising claims in all media".
"In substantiation of its superior sludge protection and "57% better" claims, BP America relied on the results of two tests conducted under a proprietary Mercedes-Benz protocol known as the M271. The M271 test was run two times on different dates once on Castrol GTX, and once on a competitive Pennzoil product. The procedures and protocols for the M271 test are proprietary to Mercedes-Benz and not publicly available. The M271 test is not part of the battery of tests required under either North American or European industry oil certification standards, although it is required by Mercedes-Benz as one of the tests required in order for oil to be certified by Mercedes-Benz for use in its engines", the panel stated.
"The information submitted by BP America did not demonstrate that the M271 test on which it relies is an appropriate basis for comparative sludge protection claims. The test procedures and protocols are not publicly available and thus NAD was not able to evaluate the test. In addition, there is no published reference data with respect to the M271 test, no correlation to other tests, no field correlation, no published repeatability or reproducibility statistics, and no way to evaluate the statistical significance of the test results. It is significant that the test results were reported in a document that clearly stated "No claims can be made based on this document." the panel stated.
"BP America did not establish that the tests on which it relies on were properly conducted. The submitted test results show that the tests were conducted on different dates and on different test engines, and it is not clear from the information submitted whether the same fuel was used for both tests. In addition, the test of the Pennzoil product was aborted and there is at least a reasonable argument as to the possibility that the test was aborted due to a problem unrelated to what was being tested" stated the panel.
"The information submitted by BP America additionally did not establish that the tests were consumer relevant in North America, which is where the challenged advertising was directed, or relevant to North American vehicles such as the one depicted in the advertisement. The record included conflicting expert opinions as to consumer relevancy. An email from Mercedes-Benz said that the M271 test is "more reliable" than a previous test run on an engine no longer in production, "more relevant for [Mercedes]," and "better correlated" to current Mercedes-Benz engines. However, the M271 test has not been accepted by either North American or European industry certification organizations, and BP America did not establish that the M271 test produces meaningful, consumer-relevant results for the overwhelming majority of vehicles driven in North America" the panel stated.
In response, BP Lubricants stated that "We appreciate the NARB Panel¹s work on this appeal. While we respectfully disagree with the Panel¹s conclusions, as a strong supporter of the self-regulatory process, BP Lubricants will withdraw the challenged advertising."
"We believe that the record before the NAD and the Panel established that sludge should be an important concern for consumers, and that car makers and many others in our industry believe that minimum standards for sludge protection don¹t go far enough. Accordingly, BP Lubricants has formulated its Castrol motor oil products to include advanced sludge protection. We are disappointed that the Panel felt that the substantiation we placed in the record in this matter was insufficient, and that we did not adequately anticipate the need to provide extensive substantiation concerning the characteristics and relevance of the Mercedes Benz M111 test, which is part of the European ACEA industry standard. We had believed that issue was not in contention" BP further stated.
"BP Lubricants will continue its efforts to provide consumers with high quality products that perform beyond minimum standards, and make renewed efforts to advertise those benefits clearly and carefully marshal substantiation of those claims." stated BP.