ASA Ruling on Debenhams Retail plc
Debenhams Retail plc
1 Welbeck Street
20 February 2013
Number of complaints:
An e-mail from Debenhams, sent 8 November 2012, stated "In association with the Daily Mail. Collect your £5* and £10* voucher from the Daily Mail and also receive 20% OFF at Debenhams.com". At the bottom of the e-mail, terms and conditions stated "*Daily Mail offer: 1. To qualify for the discount, readers must redeem 1 voucher from the Daily Mail between from [sic] Monday 5th November and Saturday 10th November 2012".
The complainant challenged whether the e-mail was misleading, because when she purchased a copy of the Daily Mail on 8 November, it did not contain a voucher.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Debenhams Retail plc (Debenhams) stated that the Daily Mail had pulled their voucher space on Thursday 8 November. They confirmed that the voucher had been printed from Monday 5 to Wednesday 7 November. Debenhams stated that they had run many promotions with the Daily Mail over a number of years and that this was the first occasion when a voucher promotion that they had advertised had not been included in the newspaper. They highlighted that, in an attempt to remedy the situation, once the voucher had been pulled they put the promotional code for the offer on the Daily Mail's website. They also explained that normally when running such promotions they always stated that their ability to publish the voucher was subject to editorial control, but that unfortunately that had not been stated in the email.
They also said in future ads for voucher promotions they would clearly explain how consumers could still secure a voucher if, as a result of an editorial decision, it was pulled from the paper.
The ASA understood that Debenhams had arranged for the offer vouchers to be printed in the Daily Mail from 5 to 10 November. We noted that the vouchers were not printed on the 8, 9 or 10 of November because of an editorial decision. As a result of that, however, we noted that a promotional code was created and uploaded to the Daily Mail website which enabled consumers to still take advantage of the offer. We understood that Debenhams normally included text in similar ads stating that the appearance of the voucher was subject to editorial control, and had intended for such wording to be included in the terms and conditions of the e-mail. We noted, however, that the Code stated that "Promoters are responsible for all aspects and stages of their promotions", and considered in that if such a qualification had appeared in the e-mail it would not counter the fact that a number of consumers could purchase a paper hoping to obtain a voucher and would fail to do so.
We considered that consumers who had received the e-mail from Debenhams would expect that if they bought a copy of the Daily Mail from the 5 to 10 November, it would contain a Debenhams voucher. In addition we noted that an individual wishing to obtain a voucher would not realise it was missing from the paper until they had purchased it. We also considered that most consumers would not necessarily be aware that the relevant offer code was available on the Daily Mail website and would not think of checking the site once they knew that the voucher had not appeared in the paper. We welcomed Debenhams's assurance that in future, when advertising voucher promotions, they would ensure consumers were aware that they could still secure a voucher even if one did not appear in the relevant paper. We concluded, however, that because, contrary to the claim in the ad, the voucher had not appeared in the printed version of the Daily Mail on 8, 9 and 10 November, the e-mail was misleading.
The e-mail breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Qualification), 8.1, 8.2 (Sales promotions) 8.14 (Administration) and 8.17 (Significant Conditions for Promotions).
The e-mail must not appear again in its current form. We told Debenhams to ensure that their promotions were carried out fairly in future.