The website www.currys.co.uk, seen on 16 December, included a product listing for a laptop. The ad featured the claim "£949.99" with "Save £200" below. Smaller grey text below stated “Was £1,149.99 (from 25/10/16 to 14/11/16)”.
The complainant, who believed the advertised discount did not represent a genuine saving, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
DSG Retail Ltd t/a Currys PC World said that the laptop was sold at £1149.99 for 21 days from 25 October 2016 to 14 November 2016, with seven units sold at that price. The price was then reduced to £949.99 on 15 November with a saving of £200 against the higher price. At the time the complainant saw the ad on the website 32 days later on 16 December, 74 units had been sold at £949.99. The laptop was at no other price prior to £1149 and there was no intervening price.
Currys believed that because £1149.99 was the immediate previous price, it was therefore the usual selling price of the laptop, with the saving claimed from the immediate previous price. They believed that the qualifying text "Was £1,149.99 (from 25/10/16 to 14/11/16)" was clear and legible, and so made clear the basis of the savings claim. They said consumers interested in purchasing the laptop were likely to be 'tech savvy' consumers who had the resources and intellect to judge whether the price was genuine. They said that it was a realistic expectation for sales to increase when the price of an item was lowered, and they could not know how many units they would sell at the higher price prior to the planned saving., They did not believe, however, that the ad's compliance with the Code could be judged by the number of units sold. Lastly, they added that the product was no longer advertised on their website.
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand the claim “Save £200” to represent a genuine saving against the usual selling price of the product at the time the ad appeared. We noted that the ad included smaller, less prominent text in a faint font which indicated when the product had been available at the higher price. We considered many consumers were unlikely to notice the smaller grey text. While those who did would understand when the ‘was’ price had been charged, that information was insufficient to alter the impression that there was a genuine saving of £200 available against the usual selling price of the product at the time the ad appeared. We assessed the information Currys submitted in light of that likely understanding.
We noted that the ‘was’ price of £1149.99 had been available for 21 days, while the lower promotional price £949.99 had been available for the subsequent 32 days. The product had therefore been sold at the initial ‘was’ price for only 66% of the time that it had been sold at the subsequent promotional price; as such, £1149.99 was not the usual selling price of the product. We considered that the ‘was’ price should generally have been on sale for longer than, or at least for the same length of time, as the lower promotional price to constitute the usual selling price of the product and for the saving claim to represent a genuine saving. We noted that this view was supported by Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s (CTSI) Guidance for Traders on Pricing Practices which stated that a reference price was less likely to comply if “the price comparison is made for a materially longer period than the higher price was offered”.
We noted that Currys had sold seven units at £1149.99, compared to 74 units at £949.99. We considered that the relatively small number of units sold at the initial ‘was’ price indicated further that the ‘was’ price £1149.99 was not likely to represent the usual selling price of the laptop, and that the claim “Save £200” did not represent a genuine saving. We noted that view was also supported by the CTSI guidance which indicated that a relevant factor to consider when determining whether a reference price was misleading was whether significant sales were made at the higher price.
Because the product had been on sale at the lower promotional price for a materially longer period of time than the initial ‘was’ price, and because over ten times more units had been sold at the promotional price than the ‘was’ price, we concluded that “Save £200” did not represent a genuine saving against the usual selling price of the product, and that the ad was therefore misleading.
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 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), 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Currys PC World to ensure their future savings claims did not mislead by, for instance, ensuring that they did not base savings claims on promotional prices that were on sale for a materially longer period of time than the 'was' price, and where significantly more units had been sold at the promotional price than the 'was' price.