A press ad for Aldi, seen on 8 December 2018, was headed "Swap to Aldi and save". Beneath this were two images of a selection of products.
Text above the left-hand image stated "Tesco. These household brands and fresh products £61.56". The products shown included a bottle of Moët et Chandon Brut Impérial Non-Vintage Champagne. Text above the right-hand image stated "Aldi. These exclusive brands and fresh products £32.54". The products shown included a bottle of Aldi's own brand Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut. Further text stated "Save 45%".
Small text at the bottom of the page stated "Based on a comparison of Aldi products against brands and fresh products as shown. Tesco may sell 'own brand' products at different prices. Based on a selection of branded and fresh products checked on tesco.com on 07/12/19. The cheapest competitive price pro rata considering weight, pack sizes and offers has been used for Tesco. Aldi prices and packaging correct as of 07/12/18. Subject to availability. For full product comparison details see [URL]".
IssueTesco Stores Ltd, who believed that the champagne products included in the selection unfairly skewed the price comparison in Aldi's favour, and that the ad did not make sufficiently clear that Tesco also sold alternative own-brand and branded champagne products at a cheaper price than the Moet product, challenged whether the price comparison was misleading.
Aldi Stores Ltd said that own-brand versus brand comparisons, and multi-product comparisons, were inherently permissible. The inclusion of champagne in a multi-product comparison at Christmas time (when many shoppers’ baskets would include one or more bottles of champagne) was justifiable.
Some products invariably produced larger savings than others. This did not mean that advertisers were not permitted to make comparisons that featured such products. Aldi said that the champagne did not provide proportionally the biggest saving in the selection compared. The Lindt reindeer was around 70% more expensive than the Aldi product compared. However, the comparatively lower absolute cost meant that it contributed less to the overall absolute savings.
The lowest percentage saving was generated by the Matchmakers and the comparable Aldi product, at 15%. The champagne sat within that range and it was not extraordinary or outside the normal range of savings presented by a range of products in a multi-product comparison ad of this nature. Aldi stated that the complaint raised by Tesco did not reflect either of the scenarios provided for in the CAP Advertising Guidance on Retailers’ price comparisons, which stated “[Advertisers] should take care not to skew the comparison by, for example, comparing an overly small number of products or an untypically high number of high-priced products that are substantially cheaper than their competitors’ equivalents”. They said that there was nothing in the guidance to suggest that multi-product comparisons were unfair where the products compared generated a range of savings, which were to be expected in any such exercise. They said that the Aldi champagne was the second-best-selling champagne on the market, after the Moët champagne against which it was compared.
The ad made clear that the Tesco goods were household brands while the Aldi goods were Aldi brands, both in the creative and small print. They said the small print was industry-standard size for press ads of this nature and which consumers could read at their leisure. They stated that it was usual practice to include a disclaimer along the lines of “Tesco may sell ‘own-brand’ products at different prices”, which addressed the assertion (which Aldi disagreed with) that own-brands were more properly comparable with own-brands than household brands.
The ad was headed “Swap to Aldi and save” in large text. On its own, this message would likely be understood to mean that consumers could make savings generally when swapping from Tesco to Aldi for their weekly shop. The claim “save 45%”, written in a very large font, was in a prominently displayed red box along the bottom of the ad and we therefore considered that the claim was a key focus. Due to the similar fonts and colouring, we further considered the savings claim would be seen to directly relate to the slogan “Everyday Amazing” and the Aldi logo and that consumers would understand from the ad that they could “Save 45% Everyday”.
While the text above the images of the Tesco and Aldi goods and the linked small print defined the basis of the comparison, we did not consider that it was sufficiently clear that the 45% savings related only to the specific selections featured, and considered consumers would be likely to understand that the savings claim referred to price differences offered by the two supermarkets more widely. We therefore considered that the ad gave the overall impression that consumers could make savings more generally by swapping from Tesco to Aldi, and that the level of savings highlighted in the ad was representative of the level of savings that could be achieved by the average price conscious shopper.
The ad depicted two selections of products, all of which were clearly visible as individual products. The ad was published in early December and featured items such as Christmas-themed chocolate, party snacks, mince pies and alcohol. We considered that overall, the baskets represented a selection of goods that consumers might be looking to purchase at a specific time of year, in the run-up to Christmas and New Year.
However, the selection would not be regarded by consumers as representing a typical weekly shop, which would likely feature more everyday items purchased regularly throughout the year. Although we considered that consumers would appreciate that the example baskets given were specific to a particular time of year, within the overall context of the ad, they were likely to understand that the same level of savings could be achieved more generally across the year in a typical weekly shop. We also considered whether the price comparison in the ad between the two baskets was misleading. The ad stated "Tesco. These household brands and fresh products £61.56" and "Aldi. These exclusive brands and fresh products £32.54". The price difference between the baskets shown was therefore £29.02. We noted that the Aldi champagne was priced at £11.49, while the Moët champagne in the Tesco basket was priced at £28, a price difference of £16.51.
Tesco objected to the inclusion of the Moët champagne in the Tesco basket, as they believed it accounted for a disproportionate percentage of the overall savings (57%). The prices given were for the baskets overall, rather than for individual products and we therefore considered that consumers would not expect the price difference between the two baskets to derive predominantly from the comparison between a single pair of products. We considered that the ad was likely to give consumers the misleading impression that more of the savings in absolute terms were made up by the other products in the selection than was actually the case. Tesco also said they offered other, cheaper branded and own-brand champagnes, which they believed would be more appropriate comparisons with the Aldi product.
We acknowledged that it was permissible for marketers to compare branded with own-branded products, provided that the comparison was not misleading. The emphasis of the comparison in this ad was price rather than quality and it had been directed at price conscious Tesco customers. As of 13 May 2019, Tesco sold 24 different champagnes ranging in price from £14 to £40. The Moët product in question sat in the higher end of that range (priced at £28 at the time the ad was seen). Furthermore, we considered Moet was a well-known brand that many consumers would associate with a very particular degree of luxury and status, irrespective of the quality or any other traits of the product. The Aldi product, and the cheaper Tesco products, were unlikely to have the same name recognition and associations for consumers as the Moët.
Aldi sold four champagnes, all of which were exclusive to Aldi. The Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut was the second cheapest of the products available. Given that there were other lower- and mid-range priced champagnes available at Tesco (both branded and unbranded), which would be considered by price conscious consumers to be more comparable with the Aldi product, we considered that the inclusion of the Moët product in the basket of goods skewed the comparison and was likely to mislead consumers.
We did not consider that the statement in the small print that “Tesco may sell 'own brand' products at different prices” was sufficient to counteract the overall misleading impression given by the selection of products. In conclusion, the use of claims that were likely to be interpreted as general savings claims – “Swap to Aldi and save”, “Save 45%” – and the relative prominence of those claims contributed to an overall impression that consumers would be able to make general savings at the stated level if they switched from Tesco to Aldi. Because we had not seen evidence that this was the case we considered the ad was likely to mislead on that basis. In addition, looking at the comparison of the prices of the two specific baskets in the ad, we considered that the inclusion of the Moët et Chandon Brut Impérial Non-Vintage Champagne in the Tesco basket artificially skewed the comparison in Aldi’s favour and was likely to mislead consumers.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.9 and 3.10 (Qualification), 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors) and 3.39 (Price comparisons).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Aldi Stores Ltd to ensure that when making multi-product comparisons in future they did not imply that consumers could make more general savings if the claim was based only on a specific selection of goods, rather than a typical weekly shop. We also told them to ensure that their selection of comparator products did not mislead.