Two Instagram Stories and a website for In The Style, an online clothing brand:
a. The first Instagram Story from In the Style’s account, seen on 20 November 2021, featured Natasha Sandhu and included text which stated, “I’m so excited for you all to get your hands on my edit with 50% off from the moment it launches [shocked, exploding head emoji]! Don’t forget guys once it’s gone it’s gone and it won’t be restocked [heart emoji]”.
b. The second Instagram Story from In the Style’s account, seen on 20 November 2021, showed two women standing next to a wall that stated “IN THE STYLE BLACK FRIDAY”. The Story included a link which stated, “INTHESTYLE.PAGE.LINK”. Underneath the link, text stated “LIVE IN ONE HOUR WITH 50% OFF GET READY. YOU CAN’T MISS THIS”.
c. The website www.inthestyle.comwww.inthestyle.com, seen on 22 November 2021, featured an image of Jess Millichamp. Running adjacent to this image, text stated, “THE BLACK FRIDAY COLLECTION”, and beneath the image, large text stated, “50% OFF JESS MILLICHAMP”.
A results page featured two images of Jess Millichamp wearing two different In The Style products. Underneath the first image, text stated, “Jess Millichamp Burgundy Cheetah Print Short Sleeve Pyjama Gift Set”. Below that, “£42.00” was crossed out in black, and “£21.00” written next to it in red. Text underneath the second image stated, “Jess Millichamp Burgundy Cheetah Print Piping Short Sleeve Pyjama Gift Set”. Below that, “£42.00” was crossed out in black, and “£21.00” written next to it in red. At the bottom of the page, a banner stated, “BLACK FRIDAY – 50% OFF JESS”.
IssueTwo complainants, who understood that the clothing collections had not been available to purchase before and would not be available for sale at a higher price once sold out, challenged whether the claim “50% off” in ads (a), (b) and (c) was misleading.
In The Style Fashion Ltd confirmed that the “50% off” promotions which involved the Natasha Sandhu and Jess Millichamp collections were introductory offers. They acknowledged that these promotions had not been advertised as such, and that the nature of the promotion should have been made clear to consumers.
In The Style said that they intended to sell the items at full price when the sales period ended, which they anticipated to be in two to four weeks. They also stated that whilst items in the collection had not yet been sold at the reference price, certain items had been sold at a price higher than the sale price since the original 50% off promotion.
In The Style also stated that the introductory offers on the Natasha Sandhu and Jess Millichamp collections had ended and that the products were subject to the normal trading cycles.
The ASA considered that consumers would likely understand that the ads’ claims of “50% off” represented a genuine discount against an established, usual selling price. We considered that was reinforced in ad (c) by the inclusion of a crossed-out higher price, next to the sale price. We therefore expected to see pricing history evidence that the collections had been sold at full price. However, we understood that the products in the Natasha Sandhu and Jess Millichamp collections had not previously been sold by In The Style, and that the “50% off” prices for the collections were introductory offer prices. Because consumers were likely to see the higher price as the usual selling price, and that was not the case, the ads were misleading for that reason.
In addition, we noted that In The Style said that the introductory offers had ended and prices were subject to the normal trading cycles. However, whilst we understood some of the products had increased in price, all of the products in both collections had remained on promotion and had not been sold at the reference price listed at launch. We also understood from In The Style’s response that they had not determined when the products would be sold at the reference price. Therefore, even if the ads had made clear that the lower price was an introductory one, the savings claims would nevertheless have been misleading because the prices did not go up to the stated reference price once the sale had ended.
Because we had not been provided with any evidence that the collections had previously been sold at a higher selling price, and because the prices had not increased to the stated reference prices at the end of the introductory period, we concluded that the savings claims had not been substantiated and were therefore misleading.
The ads 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), 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 ads must not appear again in the form complained of. We told In The Style Fashion Ltd to ensure that any future introductory offers were clearly labelled as such. We also told them to ensure that prices were increased as indicated at the end of introductory periods and to ensure they held relevant pricing substantiation for their savings claims in the future.