LONDON British shale gas explorer Cuadrilla Resources has been criticised by the country's advertising watchdog for exaggerating the safety of fracking, increasing concerns over the disputed extraction method.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said Cuadrilla's assertion in a 2012 brochure that it uses "proven, safe technologies to explore for and recover natural gas" were misleading, exaggerated and not substantiated.
Out of 18 complaints filed by an activist after the distribution of the brochure, the ASA upheld six and partly upheld a seventh, the agency said in a report on Wednesday.
Fracking involves pumping chemicals and water underground to release hydrocarbons. It has attracted strong opposition from environmental and civil society groups who argue the method pollutes water supplies and can cause slight earthquakes.
In the United States, the world's largest producer of shale gas, the New York State Assembly extended a ban on fracking in the state last month until 2015 and demanded further studies on the environmental impact.
Britain is thought to have large reserves of shale gas in northwest England, but Cuadrilla's attempts to exploit reserves have been fraught with problems.
In April 2011 the firm came under fire for causing a small 2.3 magnitude earthquake, and it postponed drilling soon after. Cuadrilla is not now fracking at any of its British sites.
The company has since tried hard to revamp its image, a move which now seems to have been stopped in its tracks by the ASA.
"On this point, the claim 'Cuadrilla uses proven, safe technologies to explore for and recover natural gas' breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.11 (Exaggeration)," the report said.
Chief executive Francis Egan said in a statement he was disappointed by the adjudications against Cuadrilla but said he thought "the ASA should have consulted scientific experts before reaching its conclusions."
He added the firm would read ASA's points carefully "to see what communication lessons can be learned in future."
(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Mark Heinrich)