ASA Adjudication on Damartex UK Ltd
Damartex UK Ltd t/a
Bowling Green Mills
23 April 2008
Number of complaints:
A direct mailing, from Damart, showed a photograph of a folded blue and white quilt in an 'English garden' setting. Text stated "Your authentic 'Country Cottage' Quilt FREE GIFT Country Cottage Quilt worth £35 FREE for you". The price of the quilt was crossed out and included an asterisk which linked to a footnote on the reverse of the mailing that stated "Your 'Country Cottage' Quilt is FREE with any order ...". The mailing opened out to show the quilt covering what appeared to be a double or king size bed. Text stated "Superb softness, generous proportions ... ". Further text on the reverse of the mailing stated "CERTIFICATE OF QUALITY ... Dimensions: Large - 180 X 150 cm Colour: Blue / white Composition: Polyester 100 g/m2. Machine washable ...". Text below stated "FREE Gift Conditions: Due to unforeseen demand and circumstances beyond our control, stocks of some gifts may run out from time to time. We will do our best to supply the gift in question as soon as stocks arrive. However, we reserve the right to supply an alternative gift of similar value if necessary."
The complainant challenged whether
1. the ad was misleading because the photograph of the quilt spread out on the bed made it look larger than it actually was, and
2. the substitute gift was of equal quality or value to the "Country Cottage" quilt shown in the ad which was described as being of "Superb softness" and having a "CERTIFICATE OF QUALITY".
CAP Code (Edition 11)
1. Damart said the quilt was pictured on a double bed and the ad made clear its dimensions 180 cm x 150 cm, which made it suitable for a standard double bed. They disagreed that the mailing was misleading.
2. Damart said the items the complainant received, a pillowcase and duvet cover, had been sent in error because their records showed that they had sufficient stocks of the Country Cottage Quilt to meet demand and, at the time of providing their response, still had 13,400 quilts in stock.
They said they always conducted tests on small mailing groups, prior to widespread distribution, in order to gauge the likely response to a mailing and to ensure sufficient stocks were in place to meet demand. A test of the mailing in question was conducted in the last quarter of 2006 and the response was taken into account when ordering the Country Cottage Quilt.
They offered to provide the complainant with a written apology and send the Country Cottage Quilt or a £35 voucher for the retailer of the complainant's choice as a goodwill gesture.
The ASA noted Damart's comments. We understood that a standard UK double bed measured 191 cm x 137 cm and the dimensions of a standard double duvet cover were 200 cm x 200 cm which would provide considerable overhang to the sides of a double bed. We noted the Country Cottage Quilt measured 180 cm x 150 cm which was considerably smaller than the size of a standard double duvet and would not provide much overhang to the sides of a standard double bed.
We therefore considered that the presentation of the quilt in the mailing, which showed it draped over a double bed with a considerable amount of overhang both to the end and sides of the bed, gave a misleading impression of the size of the quilt and implied that it was much bigger than it was. We concluded that the mailing was misleading.
On this point, the mailing breached CAP Code clause 7.1 (Truthfulness).
2. Not upheld
We noted the complainant had not received the Country Cottage Quilt and the items she had received were sent in error. We understood the items sent, a pillow case and duvet, were not intended as a substitute for the Country Cottage Quilt. We also noted Damart took sensible steps to forecast demand and carefully monitored stock levels throughout the duration of the promotions. Whilst we appreciated the complainant's disappointment, we considered that the error was genuine and welcomed Damart's apology and gesture of goodwill to the complainant.
On this point, we investigated the mailing under CAP Code clauses 27.4 (Unnecessary disappointment), 30.4 (Inability to supply demand) and 42.5a (Refunds, substitute products and returns) but did not find it in breach.
We told Damart to ensure that its products were accurately represented in future mailings.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)