ASA Non-broadcast Adjudication: Avon Cosmetics Ltd
Avon Cosmetics Ltd
Nunn Mills Road
28 July 2004
Health and beauty
Objections to a brochure, for Avon cosmetics, the front cover of which showed a Siemens mobile phone and two skincare products; text stated "AVON FREE*! PAY AS YOU GO orange MOBILE PHONE *See inside for further details". Inside the brochure, text stated "FREE orange PAY AS YOU GO MOBILE PHONE when you spend just £15 or more on Anew. Choose your Anew skincare from pages 4-19. Q. What is the offer? A. If you spend £15 or more on Anew in this Brochure, you will receive a voucher to exchange at any Orange shop. The phone you receive will be the equivalent of a Siemens A55 on Pay as you Go or a Samsung A300 or equivalent on pay monthly. Q. Isn''t that too good to be true? A. Because of the power of the Avon brand, and our millions of customers all round the country, Orange are very keen to work with us. Together we have been able to bring you this fabulous deal .... Q. When can I redeem my voucher? A. From 1st February to 30th April 2004". Smallprint at the bottom of the page stated "Offer subject to availability. Limited to 1 mobile phone voucher per customer". The complainants challenged:
1. the availability of the Orange mobile phone voucher, because they had ordered £15 worth or more of Anew products and had not received the voucher;
2. the promoters'' failure to provide a substitute product and
3. the availability of the free Orange mobile phone, because some complainants had been unable to redeem the voucher over 30 days after they had received it.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
The promoters said they had estimated the number of phone vouchers required to meet demand on the basis of previous, similar promotions. They said they had ensured they could supply more than double the number of vouchers they estimated would be redeemed; they said demand had exceeded the estimate by several times. The promoters provided information about the number of vouchers they had obtained and the total demand for the vouchers; they said, because customer demand had greatly exceeded their estimate, they could not supply enough vouchers and pointed out that the smallprint stated "Offer is subject to availability".
1. Complaints upheld
The promoters believed they had explained, to both their customers and representatives, that the promotion was limited to the number of vouchers they could supply.
The Authority acknowledged that the promoters had tried to assess demand and that demand for the promotion was far higher than expected, but was concerned that the promoters had based the estimated demand for the phone voucher on a previous promotion that had had a free gift of much smaller value. It noted the promoters'' assertion that the promotion ran from 10 March until the 31 March 2004, but also noted the brochure stated consumers could redeem their vouchers between 1 February and 30 April. The Authority understood from the complainants that the promoters had supplied Avon representatives with two letters from the President of Avon UK dated February 2004: written one to Avon representatives announced the unprecedented success of the promotion, hinted that some customers might not receive vouchers because of that, explained that additional gift options had been added to the promotion and advised representatives to ensure that customers were made aware of those new options; another written to Avon customers explained that they were unable to provide a mobile phone voucher due to unprecedented demand. It also understood that different geographic regions had different delivery times for their brochures. Because the availability of the vouchers would have already decreased significantly by the time some readers had had their brochures delivered, the Authority considered that some Avon representatives'' customers had been disadvantaged by the administration of the promotion. It noted the promoters had continued to promote the mobile phone voucher offer until the 31 March, despite knowing that they were unable to meet demand. The Authority told the promoters to take greater care when estimating demand for free gifts on the basis of previous promotions and to take immediate and unambiguous action to minimise disappointment in the event that demand for future promotional items exceeded supply. The Authority asked the promoters to take more care when administering future promotions.
2. Complaints upheld
The promoters said they had apologised to their customers for any disappointment caused by not receiving a phone voucher and had offered those customers the Anew skin cream at half price. They explained that their customers paid for orders only upon receipt: customers who chose not to accept the offer of the half-price skin cream could cancel their order and would not be financially disadvantaged.
The Authority noted the promoters'' comments and goodwill gesture to their customers but was concerned that Avon representatives were, at least temporarily, disadvantaged financially, because it understood that they paid the invoice for the products ordered and then any returns were automatically credited the following month. The Authority noted the promoters'' letter to disappointed customers, which told them no mobile phone vouchers were available due to excessive demand, offered customers the cream at half price but did not state that they could cancel their order. The Authority concluded that the promoters should have made clear in their letter to customers that they could cancel their order and that the Anew product offered at half price was a goodwill gesture only, not a substitute for the phone voucher.
3. Complaints upheld
The promoters explained that customers who tried to redeem their vouchers before the deadline of 30 April would either receive a phone or have a phone ordered for them by the participating store; they said once the ordered phone was in stock the customer would be contacted to arrange collection.
The Authority understood that several complainants who had tried to redeem their voucher had been waiting over six weeks to receive a phone and had not been kept informed of progress over that time or been offered a substitute phone of equivalent quality and price. The Authority reminded the promoters that the Code required that they should normally take no longer than 30 days to fulfil orders and should give consumers either a firm dispatch date or fortnightly progress reports if consumers had not received their product within 30 days; it told them to ensure they did so in the future.