A website, www.halfords.com, featured text on the "Apollo Fade Boys' Hybrid Bike" product page that stated "Apollo Fade Boys' Hybrid Bike - 20" £99 WAS £199.99* SAVE £100.00 (50%)". Further text on the "Description" tab stated "Higher price has been charged in 50 of 464 stores from 02/09/14 to 29/09/14 excluding Halfords.com * Intervening prices may have been charged".
The complainant challenged whether the savings claims were misleading and could be substantiated.
Halfords Ltd believed the ad complied with the BIS Pricing Practices Guide. They said the ad made clear the basis of the comparison and the proportion of stores that had charged the higher price and that the higher price had not been charged online during the specified period. They said the higher price had been offered for 28 consecutive days at the 50 stores, spread across the UK and Republic of Ireland, and that it was the immediately previous selling price. They said the lower price was offered for a reasonable length of time.
The ASA noted the higher reference price of £199.99 was presented at the top of the ad, beside a link to purchase the bike, and was linked by an asterisk to text that stated "Intervening prices may have been charged". Further text above the asterisked text stated "Higher price has been charged in 50 of 464 stores from 02/09/14 to 29/09/14 excluding Halfords.com".
We noted Halfords' belief that the ad complied with the BIS Pricing Practices Guide. However, in the context of a website from which consumers could purchase the bike, we considered consumers were likely to understand the higher price, presented prominently at the top of the ad, was the normal selling price available via the website and that the saving represented a saving against that higher price. In the absence of evidence to demonstrate that the higher reference price of £199.99 was the normal selling price available via the website, we considered the savings claim was likely to mislead consumers.
We acknowledged that text beneath the product description stated that the higher price was not the previous selling price on Halfords.com, but considered that claim contradicted the impression created by the higher reference price shown at the top of the ad.
For those reasons, we concluded that the ad breached the Code.
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), 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) and 3.40 3.40 Price comparisons must not mislead by falsely claiming a price advantage. Comparisons with a recommended retail prices (RRPs) are likely to mislead if the RRP differs significantly from the price at which the product or service is generally sold. (Comparisons).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Halfords Ltd to ensure that future savings claims were not likely to mislead consumers in future.