A radio and TV ad for a double-glazing window and door company:
a. The radio ad stated "Where I live, cavity windows aren't an option. No one needs to be cold with Safestyle UK's fantastic winter sale. With a huge 55% discount off their high quality energy saving windows and doors ... Call Safestyle UK now on [telephone number] for your free 55% off quote or visit [website address] today ...".
b. The TV ad featured an obviously cold man wearing outdoor clothing, sitting in an arm chair in a blue-hazed room. Another man speaking to the camera, said, "This man is blue with cold. He has not got Safestyle double-glazing. Right now you'll get a massive 55% off. Ask for a free quote ..." Large on-screen text stated "55%".
Two complainants challenged whether the 55% discount claim in ads (a) and (b) were misleading and could be substantiated.
Safestyle believed that, because most of their advertising promoted their special offers, it created the misperception that their products were never sold at actual list price. They provided the ASA with a number of invoices to show that their products had been sold at list price, the price on which the savings claim in the ads was based, and also a breakdown of offer periods during the six months before the ads were broadcast. They believed they had followed the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Pricing Practices Guide and BCAP Code rules by ensuring that the discount comparison had not been made with prices last offered more than six months before and that the offer was available for a reasonable period to enable consumers the opportunity to take advantage of it.
Both Clearcast and the RACC said they received a written assurance from the advertiser confirming that the offer was genuine, would only be available for a limited period and was compliant with the BIS Pricing Practices Guide.
The ASA acknowledged that Safestyle products had been sold at list price during the six months before the ads were broadcast, but nonetheless noted that the goods had only been offered at full price for a total of 26 days during those six months. For the other 158 days of the six-month period, the products had been offered at discounted prices of 55%, 60% or as part of a 'Buy One Get One Free' offer.
We considered that consumers were likely to understand the 55% off claims to mean that the discount was off the usual selling price for the products and that Safestyle had reduced the price for a promotional period. We noted that the products had been on sale at list price for 26 days immediately before the promotion, but had been available at "55% off" for a total of 101 days during the previous five months, a period during which the products had not been offered at full price at any point.
We considered that, because the products had been available at the 55% off promotional price, and at other promotional prices, for a period far exceeding the full price during the months leading up to the identical promotion, the 55% saving claim was not based on the price at which the products were usually sold. Because we considered that the claim would be understood to be based on the usual selling price, but as that was not the case, we concluded that the ads were likely to mislead consumers as to the savings available.
The radio ad (a) and TV ad (b) breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is 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) and 3.18 3.18 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product or service depicted in the advertisement. (Prices).
The ads must not be broadcast again in their current form. We told Safestyle to ensure that savings claims did not mislead about the benefit available.