A website for Mothercare, www.mothercare.com, included a product page for a "Graco Junior Maxi Highback Booster Car Seat - Scarlett". Text stated "RRP £49.99 Price £24.99 You save £25.00". A banner at the top of the page stated "Sale" and "save up to 1/2 price".
The complainant challenged whether claim "RRP £49.99 Price £24.99 You save £25.00" was misleading and could be substantiated, because they did not believe the product was generally sold for £49.99.
Mothercare UK Ltd said that the original retail price for the product was £49.99, and provided sales data from the Autumn/Winter 2012 period showing that the product had been sold for £48.20 and £46.75 during this season. Mothercare stated their belief that these price points were not significantly different from the original £49.99 retail price. They also provided an e-mail from the manufacturer of the product confirming that their suggested retail price was £49.99. Mothercare stated that their online competitors were selling the product for between £24.99 and £59.99, and provided screenshots of the product being sold by other online retailers for £59.99, £49.99 (in two cases), £46.85, £43.99, £39.95, £34.99 and £29.99.
While the ASA acknowledged that the manufacturer's suggested retail price supplied to Mothercare was £49.99, the Code states that references to such RRPs are likely to mislead if they differ significantly from the price at which the product or service is generally sold. We acknowledged that Mothercare had previously sold the product at a price in the vicinity of the specified £49.99 RRP during the Autumn/Winter 2012 period. However, we noted that they did not demonstrate that the product had recently been sold by them for prices close to the RRP stated in the ad and that the document detailing their pricing information also showed that, with the exception of isolated increases for a total of four weeks over a year, for the majority of the time since this period they had sold the product for prices close to £25. Nevertheless, in order to substantiate savings claims based on a comparison with an RRP we would expect an advertiser to provide us with evidence that the RRP in question was not significantly different from that at which the item was generally being sold across the market.
Consequently, we acknowledged Mothercare's assertion that some online competitors were selling the product for prices in the region of £49.99, and that they therefore supported their use of the RRP. However, we noted that most of the screenshots demonstrated prices that deviated from the RRP by amounts between 6% and 40% and considered that these were significant variations. Although Mothercare had provided three examples of online retailers pricing the product at or above their stated RRP we considered that, in the light of five examples of significantly lower prices, these were insufficient to demonstrate that the product was generally sold at £49.99. We also noted that, although the screenshots demonstrated that the products were offered for sale at the given prices, they did not constitute evidence that the product had actually been sold or were definitely available for purchase at these prices at the time the original ad was displayed. As such, we considered that they did not support Mothercare's assertion that the product was generally sold at or around £49.99. Taking these factors into account, we concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation), 3.17 3.17 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product featured in the marketing communication. (Prices) and 3.40 3.40 Price comparisons must not mislead by falsely claiming a price advantage. Comparisons with a recommended retail prices (RRPs) are likely to mislead if the RRP differs significantly from the price at which the product or service is generally sold. (Price comparisons).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Mothercare UK Ltd to ensure that future references to RRPs reflected the price at which the products concerned were generally sold.