A voucher for Charlie Bigham's meals, seen in the London Evening Standard on 30 October 2015, stated "£2 OFF Charlie Bigham's EXCLUSIVE SAINSBURY'S OFFER CHOOSE FROM 18 DELICIOUS MEALS FOR TWO". On the side of the voucher further text stated "£2 OFF ANY OF CHARLIE'S MEALS FIND THEM IN THE CHILLER. REDEEM AT THE TILL". Small print stated "TO THE CUSTOMER: This coupon entitles you to £2.00 off the purchase of one Charlie Bigham's meal in participating Sainsbury's stores only, subject to availability. Offer valid from 30/10/2015 to 05/11/2015".
The complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading because she had been informed that only one Sainsbury’s store in the Greater London area stocked the products.
J Sainsbury plc explained that out of 350 stores within the Greater London area, 290 stores had participated in the promotion. They said the selection of stores that had participated had not followed a particular formula, such as large supermarkets only. Further, the variable nature of stores opting in and out of the promotion because of factors such as consumer demand, sales pattern and the discretion to participate in light of other store activity, meant it was overly burdensome to communicate to consumers which stores were participating. Sainsbury’s said it was standard industry practice to use more general language when communicating limitations, and in light of those factors, they considered the use of “selected stores” was appropriate.
The ASA considered that consumers would be likely to understand “in participating Sainsbury’s stores only” to mean that there was a restriction in the number of stores the Charlie Bigham’s meals would be available at, but that they would be unaware of the extent or nature of that limitation.
We considered whether the use of “in participating stores only, subject to availability” was sufficient to convey conditions and factors likely to affect a consumer’s decision to participate in the promotion.
We noted that geographic restrictions applied to the offer. It was only available in stores within the M25 area, and even then only 74% of those stores stocked at least one variety of the meals. That meant that some areas of London, such as the area in which the complainant lived, had no participating stores. We considered those restrictions on the offer were significant and, because they were not communicated, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Promoters are responsible for all aspects and all stages of their promotions.
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) and
All marketing communications or other material referring to promotions must communicate all applicable significant conditions or information where the omission of such conditions or information is likely to mislead. Significant conditions or information may, depending on the circumstances, include:
How to participate
How to participate, including significant conditions and costs, and other major factors reasonably likely to influence consumers' decision or understanding about the promotion and 8.17.7 8.17.7 Restrictions
Geographical, personal or technological restrictions such as location, age or the need to access the Internet. Promoters must state any need to obtain permission to enter from an adult or employer (Significant conditions for promotions).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told J Sainsbury plc to ensure significant restrictions regarding participating stores were communicated in future.