Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
The phrase “Limited Edition” is commonly used interchangeably with “Collectible” or “Collectors’ Item” and the ASA has come across the term to describe miniature cars, special-issue stamps and commemorative coins or plates. Generally, a collectible is a product advertised for its interest as a collector’s item, with the emphasis being placed primarily on factors such as scarcity or aesthetic quality and not, or not solely, on practical considerations such as utility.
Marketers must not mislead and should ensure that the general description they give about their product is accurate. The ASA has upheld complaints about advertisements that have not made clear that the collectible coins offered were not legal tender (The Crown Collections Ltd t/a The London Mint, 4 October 2006) or that have exaggerated the quality of a collectible. In 2012 the ASA ruled that an ad for a Prince William porcelain doll was misleading because there were significant differences between the doll and the image in the ad (The Bradford Exchange Ltd, 10 October 2012).
Marketers need to hold evidence that the supply of their products is limited and should also take care not to mislead about the extent of the limitation. The ASA has rejected complaints about products being described as “strictly limited collection” if the ad has stated the number of products available but upheld complaints if marketers seem to have exaggerated the limitation (Royal Mint Coin Club, 26 November 2003). In 1999, the Sales Promotion and Direct Response Panel considered that a promoter prepared to satisfy all demand for a so-called “limited edition” model car was not offering a genuine “limited edition”. However in 2004 a similar case was not upheld despite the ad not stating the upper limit. In this case the advertisers were able to prove that only a genuinely limited number of items (1,300) had been commissioned (JND Ltd, 31 March 2004).
Marketers should neither exaggerate the desirability by misleading about how limited their products are nor mislead about the present or likely future value of the item. Just because products are limited, marketers should not imply that they will increase in value unless they can demonstrate a strong likelihood that they will (Stanley Gibbons, (Guernsey) Ltd, 30 April 2008; International Collectors Society, December 1999).
If they join up with a charity to produce a limited-edition article, marketers should bear in mind that they could be subject to Rules 8.33 and 8.34, which deal with charity-linked promotions.