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.
Unlike superlative claims, which claim that a product or service is superior to all alternatives, parity and top parity claims are those which state that a product or service is equal to its competitors. Any parity claims which consumers are likely to understand as objective claims must be supported by evidence.
In order to make any parity claim which consumers are likely to understand as an objective claim which is capable of objective substantiation, the advertiser must hold evidence to substantiate the claim as consumers are likely to understand it. Because parity and top parity claims are by nature drawing a comparison with competitors, the rules on making comparative claims are likely to apply (Code rules 3.33 – 3.40). see Comparisons: general.
Top parity claims are top-equal or joint-best claims, such as “you won’t find the same deal for less” (Progressive Financial Services Ltd, 9 February 2005). Top parity claims may be used where an outright superiority claim, such as “best” “best-selling” or “leading” is not possible.
Objective top parity claims should only be made if the marketer holds sufficient evidence to support the claim. See also Substantiation.
In 2018 the ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim "protects you just as effectively as Deet", alongside the claim “It is just as strong as any Deet based product” to mean that the products would provide the same duration and level of protection as all DEET-based products. Because the advertiser had not provided the ASA with any studies directly comparing the efficacy and duration of protection of the products with any DEET-based products, the claims were considered misleading (Howad Ltd t/a incognito, 22 August 2018).
The ASA has considered multiple “unbeatable” claims to be top parity claims. In 2010, they held that a product’s claim to be "an unbeatable treatment for head lice" was a top parity claim, rather than a superiority claim. Because the evidence demonstrated that the treatment was 100% effective and no product could exceed that, the ASA concluded that the claim was not misleading (Chefaro UK Ltd, 8 December 2010). In contrast, the claim that a different head lice product was “an unbeatable treatment” was considered misleading because the ASA had not been provided with robust evidence which demonstrated that the product was 100% effective, so the claim was not substantiated (Omega Pharma Ltd, 9 April 2014).
Usually objective top parity claims will be comparative claims, and additional considerations may also apply. See below for more information about making comparative claims, and the following guidance: Comparisons: General, Comparisons: Identifiable competitors, and Comparisons: Verifiability.
In some circumstances, the ASA may consider that top parity claims are unlikely to be interpreted as objective claims, or taken literally by consumers, either because they are clearly a subjective expression of the marketer’s opinion, or because they are clearly obvious exaggerations (“puffery”). These types of claims are unlikely to be capable of substantiation, and are acceptable, provided they do not materially mislead (see Code rule 3.2). For example, the ASA held that the claim “Nobody Does News Better” was a subjective one (ITV, October 2000). Similarly, in 2020 The ASA considered the claim “THE ORIGINAL AND THE BEST SINCE 2004”, in an ad for a pillowcase would be understood as a subjective expression of Slipsilk’s opinion about their product, in the context of the ad, and was therefore not capable of objective substantiation (Slip Enterprises Pty Ltd t/a Slipsilk 11 March 2020).See Matters of opinion and Types of claims: unsubstantiable, subjective or puffery.
See also Substantiation.
A parity claim is a claim that a product or service is equal to alternatives, without claiming that it is the top-equal or joint-best. As with all objective claims, in order to make any objective parity claims marketers must hold evidence which substantiates the claim.
The ASA investigated an ad for a cordless vacuum which stated “As Powerful as a Corded Vacuum”. The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim “As Powerful as a Corded Vacuum” to mean that the cordless vacuum was as effective at cleaning as a range of standard corded vacuum cleaners but would not expect it to be equally effective as all corded vacuum cleaners. In the absence of a sufficiently clear and prominent qualification, the ASA also considered that consumers would understand the claim to mean that the vacuum was as effective at cleaning dust, dirt and debris as a corded vacuum on all surface types. Because Vax’s evidence did not relate to all surface types as suggested by the claim, and only included dust pick-up performance testing, the claim had not been substantiated, and was therefore considered misleading (Vax Ltd, 19 June 2019).
When making a comparison with an identifiable competitor, comparisons must not mislead the consumer about the product or the competing product (3.33), must be about products which meet the same need or are intended for the same purpose (3.34), and must “objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature of those products” (rule 3.35). If it is possible to identify competitors, a “best” claim is likely to be understood as a comparison with identifiable competitors and must be verifiable.
Marketers do not need to identify explicitly the competitor or product that they are comparing with to be subject to the rules on comparisons with 'identifiable' competitors, and the ASA’s interpretation of ‘identifiable’ competitors is broad. If a consumer can identify at least one competitor that is being compared, whether or not it is identified explicitly in the ad, this will mean that the comparative claims must be verifiable.
Top parity claims like “joint-leading” are, by their nature, likely to be seen as a comparison with all competitors, which will mean they are likely to be identifiable, and therefore must be verifiable. Whether or not it is possible to identify competitors from a parity claim, for example “one of the best” is likely to depend on the claim, and the context in which is appears.
To make a claim verifiable, the advertiser should set out the relevant information in the ad or signpost how the information used to make that comparison can be checked by the audience. The information required to make a claim verifiable will depend entirely on the specific comparison and the evidence used to support it. Generally speaking, marketers should include as much information as possible in the ad to ensure that consumers are able to check it for themselves and include a signpost in the ad to information on the basis of the comparison. Marketers could, for example, direct consumers to a website that contains information on the basis of the comparison and make clear that this is how to verify the claim, for example “comparison can be verified at www…” or “visit www… to verify the comparison”. If verifying the comparison requires specialist knowledge, consumers should be able to get a knowledgeable and independent person or organisation to verify the comparison for them.
In order for a claim to be verifiable, the information needed to verify a comparison must be clearly signposted, and readily accessible. Providing incomplete information, or information behind a paywall, for example, is unlikely to be considered sufficient.
When considering the claim "protects you just as effectively as Deet", the ASA considered that consumers would be able to identify other brands of mosquito repellent that contained DEET on the market. Therefore, the claim was considered a comparison with identifiable competitors. Because the ad did not signpost or make available further information that would enable consumers to check the comparison, the claim was not verifiable and breached the Code (Howad Ltd t/a incognito, 22 August 2018).
Similarly, because the top parity claim “there’s nothing faster or stronger” would be understood by consumers to be a comparison with other similar products on the market, which could be identified, the claims should have been made verifiable. Although the advertiser did have sufficient evidence to support the claim, the ad did not include, or direct listeners to, information to allow them to understand the comparison, or to check the claim was accurate. Therefore ASA considered that the comparative claim “there’s nothing faster or stronger” was not verifiable (RB UK Commercial Ltd, 05 June 2019).