A sales promotion shelf label, seen in a Homebase store, offered a lawn mower at a discounted price. Text stated "Take an extra 15% off ... Today you pay £118.99 ... Normal price £139.99".
The complainant, who understood that the product had been advertised for £111.99 for a few weeks prior to the sale and that the price had been increased to £139.99 a few days before, challenged whether the claim "Normal price £139.99" was misleading and could be substantiated.
Homebase Ltd stated that the product had been introduced on 1 January 2015 at £139.99 and remained at that price until 9 February 2015. It then went on promotion from 9 February until 31 March 2015 when it was promoted at £111.99. After 31 March the price reverted to £139.99. They also explained that they had run a 15% off event, which applied to all items in store, on 14–15 February and on the Easter weekend, which was when the product was available for £118.99. They said the price had not been deliberately increased before the Easter 15% event, but that the planned promotional period for the product had ended. Homebase also provided sales data for the product showing the number of units that had been sold at the relevant price-point on a weekly basis from January to June 2015.
The ASA considered that consumers viewing the ad would expect the “Normal price” of £139.99 to represent the price at which the product was usually sold by Homebase. We noted that before the Easter weekend promotion the product had been offered for £139.99 for a shorter period of time than it had been available at the discounted price of £111.99, or less (during the February 15% event). We also reviewed the sales data provided and noted that in the period of 1 January to 9 February no units had been sold, whereas a high number of sales had been achieved during the promotional period. Further, while we noted that some sales had been achieved during the week commencing 29 March, when the product had been available for three different prices, we could not determine from the information provided how many units had been sold for £139.99.
In light of the fact that no sales had been achieved at £139.99 before 10 February, the price of £111.99 had been available for a longer period of time and a number of sales had been achieved at that price-point, we did not consider the fact the higher price of £139.99 had applied for two days before the Easter weekend sale demonstrated that the price of £139.99 was Homebase’s usual selling price for the product. Therefore, in the absence of adequate evidence to substantiate the claim that the product’s “Normal price” was £139.99, we concluded that the claim was 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), 3.17 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), 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. (Price comparisons) and 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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Homebase Ltd to ensure they held adequate evidence to demonstrate that their “normal prices” represented the price at which their products were usually sold.