Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were upheld.
A website for furniture retailer Oak Furniture Solutions, www.oakfurnituresolutions.co.uk, seen on 16 May 2017. A green banner was featured near the top of each page and contained text that stated “10% EXTRA OFF ADDED IN BASKET - 3 DAY SALE*”, accompanied by a countdown clock. The web page which promoted the ‘Oslo Walnut Wide Sideboard’ contained text that stated “SAVE 54% … £538.00 Was £1151.31 [crossed out]”. Text below the quoted offer price stated “10% Extra Off Added in Basket - 3 Day Sale*”.
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the claim "10% EXTRA OFF ADDED IN BASKET" was misleading, because they understood that the offer only applied to items that were labelled ‘In Stock Now’; and
2. the use of the countdown clock in the ad misleadingly implied that the sale promotion was time limited, because they understood that the timer would reset after the three days had expired and the same discount offer would remain in place.
1. Contemporary Oak Furniture Ltd t/a Oak Furniture Solutions stated that they would amend the information on the individual product page and on the green banner on the home page to make clear that the offer did not apply to all items.
2. Oak Furniture Solutions did not comment on that point.
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand from the claim "10% EXTRA OFF ADDED IN BASKET", on the green banner at the top of each page, that the offer of the further 10% reduction applied to all products when added to the shopping basket. We noted that the same claim was also stated underneath the quoted prices on individual product pages, including, for example, the product page promoting the ‘Oslo Walnut Wide Sideboard’. We considered that this further contributed to the impression that the offer of further reduction applied to all products.
We understood that the complainant was informed that the additional 10% discount only applied to items that were ‘in stock’. When users selected a particular category of furniture from the menu bar at the top of the home page, the results page would display products from different ranges that belonged to the furniture category selected. Certain products on the results page featured green text above the quoted prices that stated “In Stock Now”. However, users were able to purchase both products that were stated as “In Stock Now” and those products that were not. Oak Furniture Solutions did not explain in their response how ‘in stock’ items, in relation to the discount offer, differed from other items that were available for purchase on their website. While consumers might expect that they might not be able to take advantage of an offer for items which were genuinely out of stock and unavailable for purchase, products such as the Oslo Walnut Wide Sideboard were not marked as out of stock, and were available for purchase. We considered that consumers would understand the offer would apply to such products.
In addition, we noted that the claim “10% extra off added in basket” stated both in the green banner at the top of each page and on the individual product pages were followed by an asterisk, which could indicate that the claim was qualified. However, we noted that such qualifying information could not be found unless users of the website clicked on the claim in the green banner at the top of each page. We considered that the presentation of the website was such that it was not immediately clear the claim in the green banner was linked to another page where such qualifying information about the discount offer could be found. The qualification on the landing page stated “10% of[sic] Selected Items - 3 Day Midweek Sale”. We further considered that even if consumers saw that qualification, it contradicted the impression given by the prominent claim that appeared at the top of each page, as well as on the individual product pages. Furthermore, if it was the case that the additional 10% discount offer was only available on the items labelled as “In Stock Now”, we considered that to be material information that consumers required in order to make an informed decision about the discount offer and therefore should have been made clear in the ad.
Because we considered that consumers were likely to expect from the way in which the claim was presented on the website that the offer of additional 10% discount would apply to all products, and to the item on the specific product page, which we understood was not the case, and because it did not make clear which items were eligible for the offer, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
We welcomed Oak Furniture Solutions’ willingness to make changes. However, the claim “10% EXTRA OFF ADDED IN BASKET” was stated prominently on the green banner at the top of each page on the Oak Furniture Solutions website, and therefore we did not consider changes to individual product pages would be sufficient.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify.
Qualifications must be presented clearly.
CAP has published a Help Note on Claims that Require Qualification. (Qualification), and 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).
We noted that the countdown clock was positioned prominently next to the claim “10% EXTRA OFF ADDED IN BASKET” at the top of the each page on the Oak Furniture Solutions website. The product pages, for example that for the Oslo Walnut Wide Sideboard, also stated the claim “10% Extra Off Added in Basket - 3 Day Sale*”. We considered that consumers were likely to understand from those claims, in combination with the countdown clock, that the offer of additional 10% discount was only available for three days until the countdown had completed, and the prices of the products would return to the usual prices at which they were offered after the three days.
Oak Furniture Solutions did not comment on this point or provide any documentary evidence to demonstrate that the further 10% discount offer was time limited. We tracked a number of products during and after the sale. The discount prices and the “was” prices of the products remained the same after the countdown had finished for all of these products. For those reasons, we concluded that the use of the countdown clock, and the claim that there was an extra 10% off as part of a three-day sale, were misleading.
On that point, the ad 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 (Substantiation), and 8.17.4.e 8.17.4.e Closing dates must not be changed unless unavoidable circumstances beyond the control of the promoter make it necessary and either not to change the date would be unfair to those who sought to participate within the original terms, or those who sought to participate within the original terms will not be disadvantaged by the change. (Significant conditions for promotions).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Oak Furniture Solutions to ensure that future ads did not misleadingly imply that a discount promotion was applicable to all products if that was not the case, and that material information about the offer, such as which products would be excluded, was made clear in the ad. We also told Oak Furniture Solutions to ensure that future ads did not misleadingly imply that similar discount promotions were time limited, for example by using a countdown clock, if that was not the case.