ASA Adjudication on Argos Ltd
489-499 Avebury Boulevard
Saxon Great West
Central Milton Keynes
2 September 2009
Number of complaints:
A national press ad, for Argos, was headed "LESS THAN 1/2 PRICE Sandisk USB Flash Drives*". Four flash drives were pictured including the Sandisk Cruzer Crossfire. Text next to the picture had the original price with a line through it and the sale price. The asterisk linked to small print that stated "Selected lines. Offers end 24th December 2008 ... Offers may not be available in all stores, over the telephone or the internet. For availability please check your local store, visit www. xxxx or call 0845 xxxx ...".
A reader challenged the availability of the advertised 4 GB and 8 GB Sandisk Cruzer Crossfire flash drives at the price shown in the ad because, although he visited his local store the day the ad appeared, he said he was told the items were not in stock in any Argos stores in the area. He said, even though the offer had ended and the price of the items subsequently increased, they were still not available.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
Argos explained that, because sales had been slow, the advertised flash drives were not going to be included in their next catalogue and they had decided to offer the remaining stock at a reduced price via a four-day national press promotion. They said they based their forecast for anticipated demand on a previous promotion for the products, which had shown a 100% rise in demand on normal sales, and on the general sales pattern for the items during the year. Although promoted as a clearance line, they believed that, because the flash drives had previously sold in small numbers, they would hold enough stock to satisfy demand. However, they said take-up far exceeded their expectations with uplift in demand of 600% and 1200% for the two items. Nonetheless, Argos believed that they had planned their stock in accordance with expected demand for the flash drives and provided stock and sales figures for the products in the stores near where the complainant lived. They said, when the offer finished, the price of the flash drives increased but not back to the original price and, because they were discontinuing the products, they were only available in limited quantities.
The ASA understood that anticipated demand for the flash drives was based on their normal sales pattern and a previous promotion, but the take-up had exceeded Argos expectations. However, we considered that, because the items were much cheaper than they had been in the earlier promotion and were dramatically reduced from their original selling price, the promotion was not similar and a greater demand for the flash drives should have been anticipated. We noted Argos had not accounted for this difference in their calculation of demand.
We noted both the stock and sales figures for stores near where the complainant lived showed the stores had one or two flash drives available, all of which had been sold. We noted small print in the ad stated "Offers may not be available in all stores, over the telephone or the internet. For availability please check your local store ...". However, because each store appeared to have only one or two 4 GB and 8 GB Crossfire flash drives, we considered the small print was not sufficient to warn consumers of the very limited nature of the offer.
We concluded that, because Argos had not made a reasonable estimate of demand and the ad did not make clear the limited nature of the offer, the ad had given a misleading impression of the availability of the products.
The ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness), 16.4 (Availability of products), 27.4 (Sales promotions rules) and 30.1 and 30.2 (Sales promotions - availability).
The ad must not appear again in its current form.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)