ASA Adjudication on The Fresh Cosmetic Company
The Fresh Cosmetic Company t/a
4/F Strawberry Fields
No 4 A Kung Ngam Village Road
Shau Kei Wan
16 May 2012
Internet (on own site)
Health and beauty
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
Claims on uk.strawberrynet.com website on 20 January 2012 for three Clarins products stated "Rec. Retail £x save x% Our Price (GBP): £x ... Best Prices On The Net". At the top of the product listings text stated "Rec. Retail converted to GBP". Text on the Customer Service pages stated "Price and Payment Information ... We quote U.S. prices, and U.K., Japanese and Korean prices were available. For the above countries, the percentage shown is against that country's currency. If we cannot obtain those recommended prices, we quote US prices or international prices ... We take every effort to ensure our recommended prices are accurate and up to date but we cannot guarantee their accuracy ... It is impossible at this moment for us to show all countries' recommended prices although that is our ultimate aim ... Naturally, your best comparison is our price against the price you currently pay". Text under the heading "Price Guarantee" stated "We are interested if you find any other e-tailer selling cheaper than us as we believe overall we have the best prices on the net. Please remember most distributors charge for delivery, we do not. Only compare the total net delivered cost with our price as quoted. You need to tell us below who and where the retailer/E'tailer is. We will check the prices and either adjust ours or send you individual information on our findings ...".
An internet user challenged whether:
1. the savings claims were misleading and could be substantiated, because the quoted recommended retail prices (RRP) were not the price at which the products were generally sold; and
2. the claim "Best Prices On the Net" was misleading and could be substantiated.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Strawberrynet said they sold only genuine brands with customer service a top priority. They said the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) was based on the price in certain territories, principally America and Europe, and they ensured that the RRP was updated regularly. They explained that when a UK customer entered the website they would select their country of origin and the site converted the American/European RRP into the current exchange rate for the British pound. They said there was usually a banner above the product listings for each brand that stated "Rec. Retail converted to GBP". They said if the cursor was place over that text, a pop up window appeared that stated "Recommended retail price taken from U.S./Euro Rec. Retail Price converted to British Pound". They pointed out that the information on their Customer Service pages also explained how the RRP was calculated.
Strawberrynet believed that, although the RRP quoted might not be the UK specific RRP for that particular product, it was clear that the stated RRP was calculated according to US/Euro pricing.
2. Strawberrynet said they offered a price guarantee if a customer found items cheaper on another website. They said in addition, unlike many of their competitors, they did not charge handling or shipping costs, and their Loyalty Programme offered additional discounts automatically to second and subsequent customer orders. They believed that their competitive product pricing and free delivery anywhere in the world ensured that the products on their website were the cheapest available.
The ASA understood that the RRPs quoted in the listings and product pages were American or international RRPs for those products. However, we considered that, because uk.strawberrynet.com was a website targeted at UK customers and quoted prices for its products in GBP, visitors to the site would infer that the RRPs given in the listings and product pages would reflect what the products generally sold for in the UK.
We noted text at the top of the product listings page stated "Rec. Retail converted to GBP" and pop-up text stating "Recommended retail price taken from U.S./Euro Rec. Retail Price" appeared if users hovered the cursor over that claim. However, we considered that such qualification was not sufficient to counteract the misleading impression given by the foreign RRPs.
Because we had not seen evidence that the products were generally sold in the UK for the RRPs quoted, we considered that the savings claims had not been substantiated and were therefore misleading.
On this point, the claims breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.17 (Prices), and 3.40 (Price comparisons).
We considered that the claim "Best Prices On the Net" was an absolute claim that strawberrynet had the lowest prices on the internet, but noted we had not seen evidence to support that claim.
We noted strawberrynet did not charge a handling or delivery fee and also had a discount Loyalty Programme, but considered that those elements alone would not necessarily make their prices the lowest. We also noted that they offered a price guarantee if goods were found cheaper elsewhere on the net, but considered that that offer contradicted the absolute claim that their prices were the "best" and suggested that other websites might possibly be cheaper.
Because we had not seen evidence that strawberrynet offered the "Best Prices On the Net", we concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was therefore misleading.
On this point, the claim breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.38 (Other comparisons).
The claims must not appear again in their current form. We told Strawberrynet to ensure that the RRP reflected the price at which the product was generally sold and not to use comparative or superlative claims in their advertising in future unless they were able to substantiate them.