A brochure for Samuel Windsor, a menswear brand, seen in September 2018, stated on its cover page, “END OF SEASON SALE SAVE UP TO 70%”. The brochure included a number of products that were discounted against “TYPICAL HIGH STREET PRICE”:
a. Page 4 included a listing for “THE FAMOUS SAMUEL WINDSOR GOODYEAR WELTED CLASSICS” shoes, which stated “OUR PRICE £39.95 A PAIR … TYPICAL HIGH STREET PRICE £134.50*”.
b. Page 28 included a listing for “WEEKEND SHIRTS” and stated “OUR PRICE £20 EACH … TYPICAL HIGH STREET PRICE £52.88*”
At the bottom of both pages the listings stated “*We compare all of our prices with other retailers, to calculate an average high street price for each product. We do this each month and we make sure that we compare products of a similar quality, specification and design - though each product will clearly not be identical. Exact comparisons can be found on each product on our website. Comparison prices correct as of 3rd July 2018”.
The complainant challenged whether the comparisons between the advertiser’s and the “typical high street” prices were misleading and could be substantiated.
Samuel Windsor said that all of their products were compared against a representative sample of comparable high street brands. They said that they did not claim that the products that they sold were identical to other products on the high street. However, to ensure that comparisons were fair they said that they updated their price comparisons every month to ensure that they remained current and that they made it clear that they were comparing product quality, specification and design against price.
Samuel Windsor said that the catalogue included a qualification explaining the basis of the comparison on every alternate page. Samuel Windsor provided evidence which they believed showed that the shirt in the complaint was compared to two other shirts that they considered were of a similar quality, specification and design from four other retailers that they considered were representative of the high street. They provided evidence that the products were made similarly using the same manufacturing methods, location and were designed in a similar way.
Samuel Windsor further provided evidence that they had compared the shoes in the ad to shoes from four other retailers that they considered were representative of the high street and that those products that they had compared were made similarly, using the same manufacturing methods, location and were designed in a similar way. Samuel Windsor said that the claim “END OF SEASON SALE SAVE UP TO 70%” was an oversight and that future covers would comply with the Code.
The ASA noted that the front page of the brochure referred to an “END OF SEASON SALE”, and considered that consumers would understand the claim “SAVE UP TO 70%” in that context to mean that consumers would be able to save up to 70% against Samuel Windsor’s usual selling price for the products in the brochure. However, we noted from Samuel Windsor’s response that the claim was intended to be a comparison with the prices of other retailers. We acknowledged that the brochure explained on other pages that the prices of the products in the catalogue were discounted against “typical high street” prices, but we considered that consumers who saw the claim on the front page were likely to be misled by the claim.
We then assessed the claims in the inside of the brochure. With regard to the shoes, we considered consumers would understand the claim “OUR PRICE £39.95 A PAIR … TYPICAL HIGH STREET PRICE £134.50*” to mean that the price of £134.50 was representative of the price available on the high street for the same product.
Although the ad stated in a footnote on the same page that the typical high street price was calculated by comparing the products of similar quality, specification and design from other retailers and therefore that the product was being compared to products that met the same need and were of similar quality, specification and design, we nevertheless considered the overall presentation of the price claim, which was separated from the qualifying information, was likely to be seen as a comparison against identical products. Because that was not the case we considered that consumers were likely to be misled by the claim.
We also noted that the shoes were compared to products from four different retailers, and considered that, had consumers understood the comparison to have been against similar rather than identical products, they would have expected the ‘Typical High Street’ to include other major retailers that also sold similar clothes and it was not clear why those retailers had been excluded from the comparison. We considered that, because it did not constitute a full comparison against the whole high street, including all items of a similar design, the evidence provided was insufficient to substantiate a claim that the typical high street price, for similar products, was £134.50.
With regard to the “WEEKEND SHIRTS”, we considered that most consumers would understand the claim “OUR PRICE £20 EACH … TYPICAL HIGH STREET PRICE £52.88” to mean that £52.88 was representative of the price for the same product available in high street shops. Because that was not the case we considered that consumers were likely to be misled by the claim. However, even had consumers understood that Samuel Windsor was comparing their products to different products, for the reasons stated above in relation to the shoes, we considered that the evidence provided by Samuel Windsor was insufficient to demonstrate that the ‘typical high street price’ was £52.88.
For the reasons given above we concluded that the comparisons in the ad between the advertiser’s prices and the “typical high street” prices were misleading.The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and3.39 (Prices).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Samuel Windsor not to imply that price comparisons were against their own previous prices if that was not the case, for example by referring to an “END OF SEASON SALE” or similar. We also told them not to imply that price comparisons were being made against the same product sold by other retailers if that was not the case, for example by referring to a “typical high street price” without immediately clarifying the basis for the comparison. We also told them not to make price comparisons against the “typical high street price” if they did not hold evidence that show that the price had been compared against a sufficiently representative sample of the typical high street.