An in-store promotional poster for discounted sofas, seen 12 January 2017, stated “Double Discount Sale Last Few Days”.
The complainant challenged whether the promotion had been conducted fairly and was misleading, because it was not clear when the offer ended.
The complainant stated that he was made aware of the promotion around the first week of January 2017 and visited the Swansea ScS store on Saturday 7 January. He maintained that he saw a promotional poster in the store that stated that the sale “Must End Sunday” and was informed by a member of staff that the sale would end on 8 January. The complainant then purchased a sofa on 7 January on the understanding it was his last opportunity to obtain the discount. He subsequently revisited the store on 12 January and noted that the same discount was still being applied.
A Share & Sons Ltd t/a ScS stated the promotional advertising on the weekend of 7 and 8 January 2017 stated that the offer “must end soon”. On the following weekend (14 January), they advertised that that promotion was ending on Sunday (15 January). They provided examples of the promotional press ads. They also provided instructions to their retail stores about the terms of the promotion which confirmed that the promotional price in question was to end on 15 January; it was never advertised with a closing date of 8 January.
They stated that the closing dates for their promotions were already included in their press, TV and online advertising, and going forward, they could ensure that the closing date was included on the product price tickets attached to each item in their stores. They said those price tickets were prominently located and visible on all of their products and they considered that this was the most obvious place for a customer to be able to check the relevant promotional information whilst in their stores.
They understood that point of sale (PoS) displays were generally not covered by the CAP Code except those covered by the promotional rules. They therefore suggested that PoS was not the prime method of determining compliance with a promotion, but should be interpreted in conjunction with all the other types of advertising and marketing material used in a promotion. They were therefore concerned that the ASA was looking in isolation at one piece of PoS promotional material, and was not looking at the promotion as a whole.
They noted the Code specified (under CAP Code rule 8.17) that “All marketing communications or other material referring to promotions must communicate all applicable significant conditions or information where the omission of such conditions or information is likely to mislead”. They confirmed that the PoS promotional material was only in the store whilst the promotion was on, so considered no consumer would be misled whilst they were in their stores, since the PoS promotional material in question would not be there when the promotion had finished. They further considered that consumers would not be misled because there would be other material consumers would see that included the closing date, such as advertising on TV, in the press and on their website.
They pointed out that CAP Code rule 8.17.4.a referred to a “prominent closing date”, but did not specify that it had to be on all PoS material and reiterated that they were prepared to include the closing date on the price tickets in store.
They did not consider that the PoS material was likely to mislead and believed the complainant’s primary concern was the alleged miscommunication from a member of staff. They noted that many other retail stores did not include promotional closing dates on their PoS material and provided examples.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim “Double Discount Sale Last Few Days” to mean that the promotional pricing on offer was likely to end within the next few days, but in the absence of a closing date they would not be able to determine precisely when the promotion was to end from the claim. The Code stipulated that all material referring to promotions must communicate all applicable significant conditions or information where the omission of such conditions or information was likely to mislead. We considered that a precise closing date was significant information.
We understood that the closing date was included in other marketing material the advertisers had produced for the promotion, across a range of media. We also acknowledged that the complainant had become aware of the promotion through that marketing and had visited the store on that basis. However, we did not consider that it was sufficient to rely on other, separate elements of a marketing campaign to communicate significant conditions or information about a particular promotion to consumers. We therefore considered that significant information such as the closing date should have been included in all promotional material, including the in-store promotional poster.
We noted that the advertisers had indicated that, going forward, they would include the closing date on the product price tickets attached to each item in store. We understood those tickets would include relevant promotional information for consumers to consult whilst in the stores. We considered, however, that as the closing date was significant information about the promotion, it should be included on the promotional poster itself. We did not consider that it was appropriate to require consumers to seek significant information on another piece of documentation or marketing material.
We noted that the advertisers believed the complainant’s primary concern was a customer service issue, relating to an alleged miscommunication in store. However, because the promotional material seen by the complainant did not include significant information about the offer, we concluded that the in-store promotional poster was misleading and that the promotion had not been conducted fairly on that basis.
The promotion breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 8.17 8.17 All marketing communications or other material referring to promotions must communicate all applicable significant conditions or information where the omission of such conditions or information is likely to mislead. Significant conditions or information may, depending on the circumstances, include: and 8.17 8.17 All marketing communications or other material referring to promotions must communicate all applicable significant conditions or information where the omission of such conditions or information is likely to mislead. Significant conditions or information may, depending on the circumstances, include: 4.A (Promotional marketing - Significant conditions for promotions).
The promotion must not appear again in the form complained of. We told ScS to ensure all promotional marketing material, including in-store posters, included significant information like the closing date.