Last summer, Cuadrilla and their PR company PPS created and delivered thousands of ‘community newsletters’ to residents in the Fylde. Maybe you recall receiving and reading it. It was full of statements extolling the advantages of shale gas extraction for the area, together with reassurances on how safe the fracking process is. The anti-fracking group Refracktion brought the newsletter to the attention of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) who have seriously questioned the honesty of some of Cuadrilla’s major claims.
Why was the ASA involved? Well the leaflet contained statements which were demonstrably untrue but which might still convince those who had not looked into the detail of the issues. Refracktion felt that by involving a neutral arbiter like the ASA it could highlight the discrepancies in an objective way. It is not those who Cuadrilla have dubbed “extremists” who are saying that they have mislead the public, but a respected and impartial national organisation – The Advertising Standards Authority. In all 18 issues were investigated, of which 11 were Not Upheld, 6 were Upheld and one was Upheld in part. Most strikingly, the ASA report concluded, “We therefore considered that the claim that Cuadrilla used “proven” safe technologies had not been substantiated.”
The censure by the Advertising Standards Authority will force a significant watering down of some of Cuadrilla’s claims. The company will not be allowed to distribute the newsletter in its current form again.
This is a major blow to Cuadrilla, and is the latest in a series of setbacks for the company. Cuadrilla has constantly stated that it wants to be a good neighbour, that it wants to interact with the community, and so on. Instead it has demonstrated a complete lack of integrity and respect for the people of the Fylde. It isn’t within the ASA’s remit to force Cuadrilla to apologise to the people it has deceived. From what we know of the company, an apology is the last thing we’d expect but Cuadrilla should know that any last remaining vestige of trust in the company has been eroded for ever.
The fact that this news has been reported by the local, national and international press means that Cuadrilla’s already damaged reputation is now in tatters.