ASA Adjudication on MyCityDeal Ltd
MyCityDeal Ltd t/a
1 Liverpool Street
6 July 2011
Number of complaints:
Two e-mails for Groupon deal of the day coupons:
a. One e-mail, sent on 15 February, stated "£98 for £1650 towards Invisalign Teeth-Bracing Technology and Whitening at Q Clinic. View now For £98,00 [sic] Discount 94% Saving £1552,00 [sic]". Underneath, below the heading "Highlights" text stated "£1650 discount on the full price (usually £3,500)" and text under the heading "Fine Print" stated "Holder must pay remaining balance".
b. The second e-mail, sent on 5 March, stated "Today's Extra Deal £25 instead of £60 - Round Trip Business Class Flights from London Heathrow to Berlin Tegel with bmi".
1. A recipient of e-mail (a) challenged whether the claims "£98 for £1650 towards Invisalign Teeth-Bracing Technology and Whitening at Q Clinic" and "For £98,00 [sic] Discount 94% Saving £1552,00 [sic]" were misleading, because having clicked through to the offer, she found there was a significant amount to pay in addition to the £98.
2. Six recipients of e-mail (b) challenged whether the claim "£25 instead of £60 - Round Trip Business Class Flights from London Heathrow to Berlin Tegel" was misleading, because the cost of the flight was actually £174.20.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Groupon said they did not dispute that there was a significant amount to pay in addition to the £98, but believed that an average consumer would not be misled by the e-mail, because the significant conditions regarding price were included. They said their customers were used to similar offers and they routinely offered contributions towards the full price of items or services, particularly those with a high retail value. They believed that the use of "towards" in the claim £98 for £1650 towards Invisalign Teeth-Bracing Technology" made clear that there was more than £98 to pay for treatment, and the claim £1650 discount on the full price (usually £3,500)" made readers aware that they would receive £1650 off the full price of £3,500. They said text under the heading "Fine Print" also stated "Holder must pay remaining balance". Groupon believed the offer was clear.
2. Groupon said the claim £25 instead of £60" had appeared in error. They said it was a genuine mistake caused by a software technical problem, the result of their efforts to ensure that advertising on their website was not misleading. They explained that the flight deal worked differently from their usual offers and consequently, when their database automatically generated details, the discount displayed on the website was incorrect. They said they inputted a new figure in to the database in an attempt to rectify the problem, but in doing so, the £25 and £60 figures were automatically generated in the e-mail. They said that when the mistake was brought to their attention, they took steps to amend their software in order to avoid a similar problem in the future.
The ASA understood the e-mail offered recipients an opportunity to pay £98 and in return receive a discount of £1650 off the full price of teeth-bracing and whitening. We noted the headline claim stated £98 for £1650 towards Invisalign Teeth-Bracing Technology and Whitening at Q Clinic", but considered that it was not clear that a customer was simply buying a discount, albeit for more than they were paying, or that they would need to pay a significant additional amount in order to receive the advertised treatment. We also considered that it was unclear that the claim "Discount 94% Saving £1552,00 [sic]" referred to the discount and saving on the £1650 purchased for £98 rather than the overall cost of the treatment. We noted the e-mail stated £1650 discount on the full price (usually £3,500)" and "Holder must pay remaining balance", but nonetheless considered that in the overall context of the e-mail the claims were confusing and did not clarify the nature of the offer or the amount that a customer would be required to pay on top of the £98 they had already paid.
We therefore concluded that, because the wording and nature of the offer was confusing and not made clearly to consumers, the e-mail was misleading.
On this point, the e-mail (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 and 3.10 (Qualification), 3.11 (Exaggeration) and 8.1 and 8.2 (Sales promotions).
We understood that the claim that round trip Business Class flights from London to Berlin were available for £25 appeared due to a technical error. We welcomed the steps Groupon had taken to avoid a similar mistake in the future. Nonetheless, because at the time the e-mail was distributed the actual cost of flights was £174.20 and not the advertised £25, we concluded that the e-mail was misleading.
On this point, the e-mail (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 8.1 and 8.2 (Sales promotions) and 8.17.1 (Significant conditions for promotions).
The e-mails must not appear again in their current form. We told Groupon to ensure the nature of their offers are clearly made in future e-mails and that the advertised price is correct.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)