An e-mail from Debenhams, sent 8 November 2012, stated "In association with the Daily Mail. Collect your £5* and £10* voucher from the Daily Mail and also receive 20% OFF at Debenhams.com". At the bottom of the e-mail, terms and conditions stated "*Daily Mail offer: 1. To qualify for the discount, readers must redeem 1 voucher from the Daily Mail between from [sic] Monday 5th November and Saturday 10th November 2012".
The complainant challenged whether the e-mail was misleading, because when she purchased a copy of the Daily Mail on 8 November, it did not contain a voucher.
Debenhams Retail plc (Debenhams) stated that the Daily Mail had pulled their voucher space on Thursday 8 November. They confirmed that the voucher had been printed from Monday 5 to Wednesday 7 November. Debenhams stated that they had run many promotions with the Daily Mail over a number of years and that this was the first occasion when a voucher promotion that they had advertised had not been included in the newspaper. They highlighted that, in an attempt to remedy the situation, once the voucher had been pulled they put the promotional code for the offer on the Daily Mail's website. They also explained that normally when running such promotions they always stated that their ability to publish the voucher was subject to editorial control, but that unfortunately that had not been stated in the email.
They also said in future ads for voucher promotions they would clearly explain how consumers could still secure a voucher if, as a result of an editorial decision, it was pulled from the paper.
The ASA understood that Debenhams had arranged for the offer vouchers to be printed in the Daily Mail from 5 to 10 November. We noted that the vouchers were not printed on the 8, 9 or 10 of November because of an editorial decision. As a result of that, however, we noted that a promotional code was created and uploaded to the Daily Mail website which enabled consumers to still take advantage of the offer. We understood that Debenhams normally included text in similar ads stating that the appearance of the voucher was subject to editorial control, and had intended for such wording to be included in the terms and conditions of the e-mail. We noted, however, that the Code stated that "Promoters are responsible for all aspects and stages of their promotions", and considered in that if such a qualification had appeared in the e-mail it would not counter the fact that a number of consumers could purchase a paper hoping to obtain a voucher and would fail to do so.
We considered that consumers who had received the e-mail from Debenhams would expect that if they bought a copy of the Daily Mail from the 5 to 10 November, it would contain a Debenhams voucher. In addition we noted that an individual wishing to obtain a voucher would not realise it was missing from the paper until they had purchased it. We also considered that most consumers would not necessarily be aware that the relevant offer code was available on the Daily Mail website and would not think of checking the site once they knew that the voucher had not appeared in the paper. We welcomed Debenhams's assurance that in future, when advertising voucher promotions, they would ensure consumers were aware that they could still secure a voucher even if one did not appear in the relevant paper. We concluded, however, that because, contrary to the claim in the ad, the voucher had not appeared in the printed version of the Daily Mail on 8, 9 and 10 November, the e-mail was misleading.
The e-mail 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), 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification), 8.1 8.1 Promoters are responsible for all aspects and all stages of their promotions. 8.2 8.2 Promoters must conduct their promotions equitably, promptly and efficiently and be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants and potential participants. Promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment. (Sales promotions) 8.14 8.14 Promoters must ensure that their promotions are conducted under proper supervision and make adequate resources available to administer them. Promoters, agencies and intermediaries should not give consumers justifiable grounds for complaint. (Administration) and 8.17 8.17 All marketing communications or other material referring to promotions must communicate all applicable significant conditions or information where the omission of such conditions or information is likely to mislead. Significant conditions or information may, depending on the circumstances, include: (Significant Conditions for Promotions).
The e-mail must not appear again in its current form. We told Debenhams to ensure that their promotions were carried out fairly in future.