ASA Adjudication on Play Ltd
Play Ltd t/a
40 The Esplanande
7 January 2009
Number of complaints:
A national press ad, for CDs, was headlined "NEW MUSIC RELEASES". A label below stated "Music SAVE UP TO 50%"; the ad showed several CDs: Glasvegas' album of the same name was labelled "SAVE £8" and text below stated "£7.99 RRP £15.99". Text below each of the albums 'Slime and Reason' by Roots Manuva, The Automatic's 'This Is A Fix' and The Verve's 'Forth' stated "£8.95 RRP £15.99"; text below Natty's 'Man Like I' and The Cool Kids' 'The Bake Sale' stated "£7.99 RRP £15.99". Small print stated "Prices are correct at time of going to press. Play.com reserve the right to change prices. Subject to availability".
Diverse Music challenged whether the Recommended Retail Prices (RRPs) and savings in the ad were genuine.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
Play.com (Play) said the RRPs reflected the prices at which they expected the products would be sold if they were not subject to a promotional offer. They said the RRP often also reflected the manufacturer's list price; on that basis they believed the RRPs in the ad genuinely reflected the prices at which the products would normally be sold.
Play stated that the ad appeared several weeks before the ASA contacted them and it was therefore difficult to subsequently determine the prices that were offered by competitors at the time the products were advertised especially because the market was subject to rapid price deflation. They said, however, that their pricing policy remained consistent with that of their competitors. Play provided a table that included the RRPs recently used by some of their competitors and, where it was different, the price at which the product was currently being sold.
Play also provided information from some of those competitors' websites and pointed out that their own RRPs were mostly consistent with those of their competitors. They pointed out they had taken care to include the text "UP TO" to account for the CDs that had discounts of less than 50%.
Play said, in the light of a previous ASA adjudication, they had implemented an internal policy of not applying RRPs or 'savings' to products that had not been released at the time the ad appeared but instead informed the consumer of the release date only. They said it appeared there had been an error because the ad stated RRPs and 'savings' for products which were available as pre-release only at the time the ad appeared. They stated they had taken steps to ensure that would not happen again.
The ASA noted Play believed the stated RRPs genuinely reflected the prices at which the products would normally be sold. We acknowledged that the ad stated " UP TO" to account for those CDs that had a discount of less than 50%. We noted some of the extracts from competitors websites quoted RRPs of £15.99 and that others advertised the CDs at lower prices.
We noted the previous ASA adjudication Play referred to was published in April 2008, when the ASA told them not to use 'RRPs' when advertising products not yet on general release. We noted some of the CDs in the ads had been released at the time the ad appeared; however, the ad also stated RRPs for products that were not on general release at that time. Because the albums by Glasvegas, Roots Manuva, The Automatic and The Verve were not on general release at the time the ads appeared, we concluded that the RRPs, and therefore the 'savings' based on those RRPs, were unsubstantiated, because they could not reflect the prices at which the products were generally sold.
Although some of the CDs were on general release when the ad appeared, we considered that the inclusion of a product and RRP taken from a competitors' website did not necessarily constitute evidence that that was the price at which the product was generally sold. In addition, we understood from the evidence submitted that the actual selling price of the products offered by Play's competitors differed from the advertised RRP in some cases. Because Play did not hold robust evidence to show that the RRPs stated in their ad reflected the prices at which those products were generally sold, we also concluded they, and the 'savings' based on them, had not been substantiated.
The ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation) and 15.5 (Price comparisons).
The ad must not appear again in the current form. We reminded Play not to use RRPs when advertising products not yet on general release and told them to ensure that they held robust substantiation, before making a claim, that price comparisons reflected the price at which the product was generally sold.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)