Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
Two promotions on www.wowcher.co.uk:
a. The first promotion stated "£17.99 instead of £49.99 for a Swagger 2GB MP3 player in blue, red, pink, black or green, from Sonic UK - save 64% + FREE POSTAGE".
b. The second promotion stated "£11.99 instead of £29.99 for an iConcepts car charging kit, from Sonic UK - power your laptop in the car & save 60% + FREE DELIVERY".
1. One complainant challenged whether the usual retail price of £49.99 in ad (a) was genuine.
2. One complainant challenged whether the usual retail price of £29.99 in ad (b) was genuine.
1. & 2. Associated Newspapers Ltd, t/a Wowcher (Wowcher) said it was their standard approach to refer to the usual price at which goods were sold by the supplier, because the discounts they offered were usually limited to the selling price of a good or service at a particular supplier in order to ensure that consumers would not be misled; that was the approach adopted in relation to the two ads.
Wowcher provided screenshots of the product listings on Sonic (UK) Ltd's (Sonic) website, which showed that the suggested retail price of the MP3 player in ad (a) was £49.99, and the suggested retail price of the car charging kit in ad (b) was £39.99. Wowcher said that Sonic did not usually sell directly to the public, but through distributers, so they had also taken steps to ensure that the prices quoted by Sonic were the prices at which Sonic distributors sold the products. They provided a screenshot of each of the products on sale on the internet through Sonic's distributors; the MP3 player was on sale at £49.99 and the car charging kit at £39.99.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the pre-discount prices stated in the ads to mean that the products were generally sold to consumers by Sonic at those prices. We noted that the products were not available for consumers to purchase directly from Sonic. We considered that, in order to substantiate such price claims, we would need to see documentary evidence, such as receipts or sales records, that the products were generally sold at the quoted pre-discount prices. We considered that screenshots of the product listings on Sonic's website, and the other websites, did not constitute such evidence. Because we had not seen evidence to substantiate the pre-discount prices were genuine, we concluded the ads were misleading.
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), 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 ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Wowcher they must hold documentary evidence to substantiate that the pre-discount prices quoted in their offers were the prices at which the products were generally sold to consumers by the retailers referred to in the ad.