ASA Adjudication on News Group Newspapers Ltd
News Group Newspapers Ltd t/a
1 Virginia Street
21 July 2010
Number of complaints:
A reader offer in The Sun stated "YOU CAN'T BUY THESE IN THE SHOPS FREE new moon USB WRISTBAND". Entry details for the offer stated "SEND a cheque for £2.99 to cover p&p ... OR send a padded A4 self-addressed envelope per USB with £1.85 of stamps attached".
The complainant challenged whether the claim that the USB wristband was "FREE" was misleading, because he did not believe that £2.99 represented the actual cost of postage and packaging or that £1.85 represented the actual cost of postage.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
News Group Newspapers (News Group) explained that the reader offer was a late inclusion in the newspaper and their marketing team relied on information provided by the company who sourced the USB wristbands. News Group acknowledged that an error had occurred with the advertised postage costs, because, having since weighed the item, they found the advertised charges were significantly higher than the actual cost of postage. They said in future all promotions sourced through the fulfilment company would be reviewed for postal charges prior to publication in order to avoid similar mistakes occurring again.
The ASA noted the CAP Code stated that an offer should only be described as free if consumers paid no more than the true cost of delivery. We understood that, due to an error, the wrong postal charges had been included in the promotion. However, we considered that greater care should have been taken to ensure that consumers paid no more than the minimum cost of responding to the promotion, and concluded that, because the advertised postage rates exceeded the minimum rate of postage, the description of the USB wristband as free was misleading.
The promotion breached CAP Code clauses 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 32.2 and 32.5 (Free offers and free trials).
We welcomed News Group's assurance that they would ensure that postage and packing charges in all future promotions represented the true cost of postage.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)