A national press ad for Alison at Home, a furniture retailer, seen on 25 August 2018 showed a Hudson Living Capri leather chair with a price of £299 and a recommended retail price (RRP) of £379. It also included an Arbour with a price of £288 and an RRP of £338.
The complainant, who understood that the quoted RRPs differed significantly from the prices at which the leather chair and the arbour were generally sold, challenged whether the savings claims were misleading and could be substantiated.
Alison at Home (Retail) Ltd provided a screenshot showing the same chair being offered for £379 on the website of a major retailer and provided another screenshot showing that another competitor was selling the chair with a savings claim against an RRP of £379. They also provided links to a number of competitors’ websites showing savings against RRPs of around £379 and above. They said that the chair was quite specific and so would likely not have been available particularly widely elsewhere, which made it difficult to show that the chair was generally sold for £379.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the RRP claims to mean that by purchasing the items through Alison at Home’s website, they could make a saving against prices that did not differ significantly from the prices at which the products were generally sold by other retailers.
The only evidence we had seen in relation to the chair being sold at the claimed RRP was through one major retailer. We had also seen evidence that two other retailers had used the same RRP to make savings claims but were selling the chair for different prices. The chair may not have been widely sold by other retailers, but it did appear to be available at some other outlets, none of which charged the RRP. We considered that the chair had not been shown to be generally sold by other retailers at the claimed RRP, and we had not seen any evidence that the arbour was generally sold at the stated RRP. We therefore concluded that both savings claims were likely to mislead.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (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) 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 the form complained about. We told Alison At Home (Retail) Ltd to ensure that future references to RRPs reflected the price at which the products concerned were generally sold. We also told them to ensure that they held adequate evidence to substantiate their savings claims.