‘Misleading and unsubstantiated’ advert for reusable copper face masks banned

The advert has been banned by the ASA. (PA Images/ASA)
This advert has been banned by the ASA. (PA Images/ASA)

An advert that made “unsubstantiated claims” that a copper face mask could kill coronavirus and keep its wearer safe has been banned.

Easylife Group Ltd’s advert, which appeared in The Sun on 19 June, claimed the masks would protect a user from bacteria and viruses, according to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The reusable “copper-infused” mask’s product description said: “Protection plus – the mask that kills bacteria/viruses on contact.

“Attack is the best defence – and that’s what this face mask proves.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

“It doesn’t just provide a passive barrier against bacteria, viruses, pollen, pollutants, dust particles etc – it takes positive action, destroying germs on contact.

“The secret is pure copper fibres infused in the polyester/spandex fabric.”

Three people complained the advert was misleading, and the company said it had amended the advert after it went out.

Read more: Keir Starmer accuses government of spending £150m on zero face masks

The ASA pointed to Public Health England advice that stated that wearing face coverings may help others but evidence suggests it does not protect you.

“While we therefore considered that the widespread availability and responsible advertising of face coverings was desirable in general terms, we also considered that it was important that marketers of face coverings and masks should not mislead consumers about the capabilities of their products, for example by giving the impression they would protect the wearer when there was little evidence that this was the case,” the ASA said.

Watch: Eight exceptions to the new lockdown

“We understood that copper had known anti-microbial properties.

“We had not, however, seen evidence that the mask had been tested and been found effective at creating an effective barrier which would protect the wearer by instantaneously killing particles of the COVID-19 virus it came into contact with, as implied by the ad.”

The ASA found the advert breached its code relating to misleading advertising and substantiation, and said it must not appear again in the form complained about.

People wearing face masks walk along Oxford Street in London, England, on November 6, 2020. England yesterday began its second national coronavirus lockdown, announced by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last Saturday, citing fears that covid-19 again threatened to overwhelm the National Health Service (NHS). Pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential shops are all required to be closed until the currently scheduled end date of December 2. People have meanwhile been asked to stay home as much as possible, although schools and other educational institutions are this time being being kept open and the streets of central London today were markedly busier than the early days of the first lockdown in the spring. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The ASA noted Public Health England advice saying masks can help keep others safe may not protect the wearer. (David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Easylife Group was told not to state the mask in the advert would likely protect a user from airborne infections like COVID-19 unless it had enough evidence to demonstrate it met the standards of personal protective equipment, or claim the copper fibres would kill COVID-19 particles that come into contact with it.

This is the second Easylife Group advert the ASA has banned for being misleading. Another was placed in The Sun in August.

The ASA said it was “concerned by Easylife’s lack of substantive response and apparent disregard” for its code, and said: “We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a substantive response to our inquiries and told them to do so in future.”

Watch: Can you get COVID-19 twice?

Coronavirus: what happened today

Click here to sign up to the latest news and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter