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.
Top parity claims essentially amount to top-equal or joint-best claims. Claims such as “unbeatable taste” (Unilever UK Ltd, 1 June 2011), “you won’t find the same deal for less” (Progressive Financial Services Ltd, 9 February 2005) and “no other car has a better safety record” are likely to be interpreted in this way by the ASA.
Top parity claims are generally used in circumstances when an outright superiority claim is not possible, or where it would be difficult to prove. For example, if a product contains the same amount of active ingredient as its competitors, a top parity claim along the lines of “nothing is proven to work better than X” may be acceptable. In 2010, the ASA held that a product’s claim to be "an unbeatable treatment for headlice" 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). Marketers might be interested to learn that the General Media Panel has previously considered whether a benefit that was demonstrable, but imperceptible to consumers, could justify a superiority claim. The Panel decided that if the benefit was not meaningful to consumers then marketers should limit themselves to making a top parity claim.
Generally, top parity claims will be acceptable if a marketer can show that their product or service is demonstrably as good as that of their competitors. In 2011, the ASA held that a claim of “unbeatable results” for a liquid detergent was misleading, because it did not make clear that powder and tablet detergents were excluded from the comparison (Unilever UK Ltd, 5 October 2011). As with any such claim, marketers must hold robust evidence to prove the validity of a top parity claim (Omega Pharma Ltd, 9 April 2014). See Substantiation.
In some circumstances, the ASA may consider that a top parity claim is likely to be interpreted by consumers as subjective rather than objective. For example, the ASA held that the claim “Nobody Does News Better” was a subjective one (ITV, October 2000).
A parity claim, whilst less impressive than a top parity claim, will also be less onerous to prove. Examples of this type of claim are “one of the cheapest” (Virgin Money Personal Financial Service Ltd, 30 July 2003) and “one of Britain’s leading housebuilders” (David Wilson Homes, 22 January 2003). The ASA is unlikely to uphold complaints about such claims unless they are clearly capable of objective substantiation (Environment Agency, 6 June 2001).