Two national press ads for ASDA for supermarket price comparisons.
a. A press ad, which appeared on 26 September 2011, was headlined "Only one supermarket is ... always 10% cheaper or we'll give you the difference guaranteed. On your comparable grocery shopping versus Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury's & Waitrose. ASDA price GUARANTEE". A banner at the top of the ad contained a collection of roundels which stated "SALE", "Half Price", "Price Drop", "50% off", "Price drop", "cheap". A footnote at the bottom of the ad stated "powered by mySupermarket.co.uk. Asda Price Guarantee includes comparable grocery shopping only. Comparison made against Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Waitrose only. Your shopping must consist of a minimum of 8 different grocery products, of which at least 1 must be comparable. Claims must be made within 28 days. Difference via voucher for comparable products. £100 total claim in any one month. Maximum 10 claims per month. Exclusions apply. For further information, full terms and conditions go to [website address]. For example: if your comparable grocery shop cost you £100 at Asda and £100 at Tesco, Asda will give you a voucher for £10. If your comparable grocery shop cost you £95 at Asda and £100 at Tesco, Asda will give you a voucher for £5".
b. A press ad, which appeared on 7 October 2011, consisted of two parts, either side of an article over a double page spread. The first part was headlined "ONLY ONE supermarket ... ... has 1,451 prices cheaper". It included a graphic which showed that Morrisons had 482 products cheaper, Tesco had 586 products cheaper, ASDA had 1,451 products cheaper and Sainsbury's 613 products cheaper. Text stated "As independently checked by mySupermarket.co.uk". A footnote at the bottom of the ad stated "powered by mySupermarket.co.uk. Comparisons made against Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons only. Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury's prices checked on 26 September 2011 by independent comparison site mySupermarket.co.uk. Morrisons' prices checked independently on Monday 26th September 2011 and validated by mySupermarket.co.uk. Comparison based on 5,129 same brand and same size products on Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury's websites and in selected Morrisons stores across Great Britain. Includes promotional prices. Online prices may vary from those in-store. For verification write to ASDA LS11 5AD". The second part included the same headline, text and footnote as ad (a).
Tesco challenged whether the claim "Only one supermarket is ... always 10% cheaper" in both ads was misleading.
ASDA said the claim "only one supermarket ... is always cheaper or we'll give you the difference guaranteed" clearly defined the ASDA Price Guarantee (APG) as a price promise rather than a lowest price claim. They believed that the claim "Only one supermarket is always 10% cheaper or we'll give you the difference" did not constitute a 'lowest price' claim as defined in the CAP Help Note on Lowest Price Claims and Price Promises. They believed that the average consumer would understand that it referred to a price promise and that the inclusion of "always" in the context of the ads clarified, rather than contradicted the meaning of the price promise. They explained that with the APG, ASDA would always be 10% cheaper than the named competitors or they would give consumers the difference. They said they were unaware of any consumer complaints as to the meaning of the claim.
The ASA noted both ads claimed "Only one supermarket is ... always 10% cheaper or we'll give you the difference guaranteed". However, we noted that the banner at the top of ad (a) contained the claims "SALE", "Half Price", "Price Drop", "50% off", "1/2 price", "cheap" and that part of the headline claim "... always 10% cheaper" appeared in bold text in the middle of the ad. We considered the banner, together with the headline claim "Only one supermarket is ... always 10% cheaper", were likely to be interpreted by consumers as claims that referred to the price of ASDA goods. Therefore, we considered the claim "... always 10% cheaper" in ad (a) was likely to be seen as a claim that ASDA offered the lowest prices and would be interpreted as a 'lowest price' claim. We noted that the footnote explained the APG but we considered that this qualification contradicted ASDA's absolute claim that they were always the lowest on price. Because of that contradiction, we concluded that ad (a) was misleading.
We noted that part one of ad (b) claimed "ONLY ONE supermarket ... ... has 1,451 prices cheaper" which we considered made clear that ASDA was cheaper than Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury's on that number of items. We therefore considered that that part of the ad made clear that ASDA did not always have the cheapest prices and offered a price promise. However, we noted that part two of ad (b) was similar to ad (a) and stated "and ONLY ONE supermarket ... is always 10% cheaper or we'll give you the difference guaranteed". We considered consumers could interpret that claim as one which guaranteed to refund the difference, should ASDA not be the lowest on price. However, as with ad (a), we considered the presence of the claim "only one supermarket is always 10% cheaper" could create the impression that ASDA were always 10% cheaper and would be interpreted as a 'lowest price' claim.
We considered that both parts of ad (b) were contradictory and it would be ambiguous to consumers as to whether Asda offered a 'lowest price' claim or a 'price promise'. Because of that, we concluded that ad (b) was misleading and breached the Code.
Ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons with Identifiable Competitors).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told ASDA to make clear that they offered a price promise and not to confuse that price promise with a lowest price claim.