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.
The CAP Code requires advertisers to hold documentary evidence to substantiate claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. Superiority claims must be supported by evidence unless they are obvious exaggerations (puffery) or claims that consumers are unlikely to take literally.
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.
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).
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 this claim 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 as a corded vacuum at cleaning dust, dirt and debris 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).
Marketing communications do not need to explicitly identify the competitor or product being compared to be subject to the rules on comparisons with 'identifiable' competitors. If a consumer can identify at least one competitor or competing product, whether or not it is identified explicitly in the ad, rules 3.33 – 3.37 will apply. This type of comparison is allowed as long as claims are based on objective criteria and comply with these rules. In most cases, parity and top parity claims are likely to be understood as comparisons with identifiable competitors. See Comparisons: identifiable competitors.
The CAP Code requires that comparisons with identifiable competitor products must be verifiable (rule 3.35). 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 needed to verify a comparison must be clearly signposted, and readily accessible. Providing incomplete or inaccessible information, for example behind a paywall, is unlikely to be considered sufficient.
Because the top parity claim “there’s nothing faster or stronger” would be understood by consumers to be a comparison with other similar, identifiable products on the market 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 that the claim was accurate. Therefore the claim was not verifiable (RB UK Commercial Ltd, 05 June 2019).
For detailed advice on this requirement see Comparisons: Verifiability.
In some circumstances, the ASA may consider that parity and top parity claims are unlikely to be 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).