Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
Claims in two TV ads, two paid-for search results on Google and on a website, which were seen between November 2016 and March 2017, for several price promotions by Safestyle UK.
a. One TV ad, seen in November 2016, featured a voice-over that stated “There’s still time to get 60% off all windows and doors with fitting in time for Christmas …”. The ad featured on-screen text that stated “60% OFF ALL WINDOWS AND DOORS ORDER BY MONDAY NOV 21ST FOR XMAS FITTING … safestyle.co.uk …”.
b. A second TV ad for Safestyle UK, seen in January 2017, featured on-screen text that stated, “60% off”. The voice-over stated, "We’ve got 60% off windows and doors …".
c. The website www.safestyle-windows.co.uk, seen in January 2017, featured text that stated “Get a massive 60% off double glazing this month at Safestyle … JANUARY SALE 60% OFF Windows and Doors”. Below that was small print that stated “Some exclusions apply Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer”.
d. A paid-for search result on Google, seen in December 2016, which featured text that stated “60% Off All Double Glazing - Fit in Time for Winter … Huge Savings On all Safestyle Double Glazing …”.
e. A paid-for search result on Google, seen in February 2017, which featured text that stated “Safestyle up to 60% Off Sale … Huge Savings On all Safestyle Windows & Doors - Get Up To 60% Off …”.
The ASA received 12 complaints:
1. Eleven complainants, who understood that Safestyle UK had been offering all their windows and doors at discounted rates throughout 2016, challenged whether the savings claims in ads (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) were misleading and could be substantiated.
2. One complainant, who understood that the promotional discount was “up to” 60%, challenged whether that was made sufficiently clear in ads (a) and (d).
1. & 2. HPAS Ltd t/a Safestyle UK said they believed the offers in the ads were clear and genuine. They clarified that the promotional discount in ads (a) and (d) was “up to” 60% and that each promotion applied to different products.
They provided us with their 2016 broadcast promotional calendar.
They accepted that confusion could have been caused due to complainants seeing different ads in different mediums for different sales. In particular ad (b) was for an entirely different promotion, the January sale, and that was distinctly separate from the pre-Christmas sale that ran on TV in November prior to the non-offer period during December.
They also provided a sample of records extracted from their customer database for two of the non-offer periods in 2016 as well as the offer period of November 2016. These records showed ten customers had paid full price for their window, door and patio products purchased in August 2016; ten customers had paid full price for their window, door and patio products purchased in December 2016; and ten customers received a 60% discount on full price for their window, door and patio products purchased in November 2016.
Clearcast said they received assurances from Safestyle UK that the promotion complied with all relevant regulations and guidelines including the pricing practices guidance from Trading Standards. They had received a promotional calendar from Safestyle UK which showed from June 2016 to February 2017 there were 114 days of promotion and 131 days of non-promotion.
They said although Safestyle UK had run promotions throughout the year, there were significant gaps between each offer which they considered met the requirements of the relevant guidance as they established a higher ‘usual’ selling price for the products.
They said because Safestyle UK’s products were bespoke, the price depended on the customer’s needs and any quoted prices would be relatively meaningless to a customer, hence why they omitted specific price history information from their ads. They said Safestyle UK confirmed to them that the discount set out in ads (a) and (b) was 60% off all windows and doors. They were therefore satisfied that the claim had been substantiated and that all material information was communicated in the ads.
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand the “60% off” claims to represent a genuine saving against the usual selling price for the products at the time the ads appeared, and that Safestyle UK had reduced the price for the promotional period. We also considered that consumers would generally expect periods of promotion to be temporary.
We referred to the 2016 promotional calendar Safestyle UK provided. Safestyle UK had said the calendar demonstrated that there were 200 days without a discount promotion; there were 82 days with “up to 55% off windows, doors and conservatory upgrades” promotion; there were 35 days with a “55% off all windows and doors” promotion; there were 25 days with a “Buy One Get One Free” promotion; and there were 24 days with a “60% off all windows and doors” promotion. We noted the November promotion “up to 60% off”, represented in ad (a), ran for 9 days. Immediately before this a 60% off promotion had run for 15 days; no promotion had been run for 31 days immediately prior to the preceding 60% off promotion. However, since 1 January 2016 and up to 7 November 2016 (when the 60% promotion began) there were 142 days of discounted prices including 55% off, 60% off or as part of a 'Buy One Get One Free' offer compared to 169 days of non-promotion.
Furthermore, the January promotion, represented in ads (b) and (c), ran for 33 days. Immediately before this, no promotion had been run for only 31 days. The appearance of ad (e), seen by the complainant in February, indicated that Safestyle had continued to use that cyclical manner of promotion.
We considered that the promotional calendar showed that, throughout 2016, the periods when a promotion ran were essentially equivalent in length to when there was no promotion running. We did not consider that the intervening periods between the promotions were sufficient in length to establish that the higher prices of the products were the usual prices of the products.
We also considered that the sales data that Safestyle UK provided to us did not demonstrate that there were significant sales at the higher selling price outside of the promotional period, which we considered was relevant in establishing whether the higher prices were the usual selling prices.
We, therefore, considered that the savings claims would be understood to be based on the usual selling price for the products, but we did not consider the evidence showed that to be the case. We concluded that the savings claims had been exaggerated and were likely to mislead consumers.
On that point ads (a) and (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) and ads (c), (d) and (e) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading Advertising) 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Prices).
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand the claims made in the ads to mean that they could achieve a full 60% discount off the usual price of all the products mentioned in each ad: windows and doors in ad (a); and double glazing in ad (d). However, we understood that the promotions were both, in fact, “up to 60% off” deals, meaning that not all products in each offer had a full 60% discount.
Because consumers were not able to achieve the full 60% saving against all of the products in the promotions, we concluded the savings claims in both ads had not been substantiated and were misleading.
On that point ad (a) breached BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
In setting or revising any such standards, Ofcom must have regard, in particular and to such extent as appears to them to be relevant to the securing of the standards objectives, to each of these matters:
a) the degree of harm or offence likely to be caused by the inclusion of any particular sort of material in programmes generally, or in programmes of a particular description;
b) the likely size and composition of a potential audience for programmes included in television and radio services generally, or in television and radio services of a particular description;
c) the likely expectation of the audience as to the nature of a programme's content and the extent to which the nature of the programme's content can be brought to the attention of potential members of the audience;
d) the likelihood of persons who are unaware of the nature of the programme's content being unintentionally exposed, by their own actions, to that content;
e) the desirability of securing that the content of services identifies when there is a change affecting the nature of a service that is being watched or listened to and, in particular, a change that is relevant to the application of the standards set under this section...".
(Misleading Advertising) and 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 ad (d) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. and 3.3 (Misleading Advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
The ads must not appear again in its current form. We told Safestyle UK to ensure their future savings claims did not mislead and to ensure they substantiated savings against the usual selling price of their products. We also told Safestyle UK to ensure they presented all material information in their marketing communications including any significant limitations or qualifications to promotions.