A paid-for Facebook post for supersavingdeal.com, appearing on Food Masters' Facebook page, seen on 1 April 2019, contained a video of a 'pancake cooker'. The video demonstrated the product and featured text that read "PANCAKE COOKER" followed by the crossed-out price $19.95. Underneath that was the word "FREE".
The complainant, who believed that the pancake cooker was not free because payment of a US$40 VIP membership fee was required to obtain the item, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
Digital Ad Works Ltd (supersavingdeal.com) did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.
The ASA was concerned at supersavingdeal.com's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a response to our enquiries and told them to do so in future. The CAP Code stated that ads must not describe a product as "free", "gratis", "without charge" or similar if the consumer has to pay anything other than the unavoidable cost of responding and collecting or paying for delivery of the item.
We considered that consumers would understand from the ad that the pancake cooker usually cost US$19.95, but that by clicking-through to supersavingdeal.com's website from the paid-for post, it could be obtained for free. However, we understood that consumers had to pay US$40 for 'VIP membership' in order to obtain the cooker. We therefore concluded that the claim that the cooker was “free" was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 (Misleading advertising).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Digital Ad Works Ltd not to refer to products as “'free” where consumers had to pay anything other than the unavoidable cost of responding and collecting or paying for delivery of the item.