Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
The website www.oakfurnitureland.co.uk promoted furniture. The site included a banner which stated "72 hour savings MUST END WEDNESDAY" and included a countdown. The "Sleigh Walnut Solid Mango Computer Desk" was listed with a crossed out "Was" price of £689.63 and a "Now" price of "£429.75". Text in the product description stated "Please note This range is a web exclusive collection, and as such it's not available to view in any of our showrooms".
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the claim "72 hour savings MUST END WEDNESDAY" and the countdown clock were misleading, because they implied that the promotional prices were only available for a limited time, whereas he understood that when one sale ended another, with the same discounts, commenced; and
2. the savings claim was misleading because he understood that the product had not been previously sold at the "Was" price.
1. JB Global Ltd t/a Oak Furniture Land said the “72 hour savings” promotion applied to a small selection of items that had been clearly grouped in a separate section of the website which could be easily accessed by consumers, either by clicking the banner at the top of the page, or through the ‘promotions’ section on the left side of the website. All the items included in the sale were clearly marked showing the previous price and the promotional price, and following the end of the event, the prices were increased. They explained that, contrary to the complainant’s understanding, the “Sleigh Walnut Solid Mango Computer Desk” was not included in the “72 hour savings” sale which was clear as it did not feature an “extra savings” or “was, was, now” price. They provided information regarding all the promotions they had run from January to July 2015, including a list of the products that had been discounted.
2. Oak Furniture Land explained that the “Sleigh Walnut Solid Mango Computer Desk” was not included in the “72 hour savings” sale, but that the stated “was” price represented the price that the product was advertised at on the website www.oflhome.co.uk. The product had been available on that site for £689.63 from 23 August 2014. They said in light of the complaint they intended to amend their pricing policy, and the explanation regarding the basis of their “was” prices, to include a reference to www.oflhome.co.uk. They also provided information regarding the number of desks they had sold, and at what price, from December 2014 to June 2015.
The ASA reviewed the data supplied and Oak Furniture Land’s pricing policy. We understood that, at the time the ad appeared, the majority of items promoted on the Oak Furniture Land site, such as the “Sleigh Walnut … Computer Desk”, were listed with “was” and “now” prices, and that the existence of a “was” price did not mean they were included in the time-limited ("72 hour") offer. Instead, we understood that, as stated in their pricing policy, in general the listed “was” prices represented the price at which the items had been sold for a four-week period in either November/December 2014 or March 2015 in a selection of their showrooms.
We noted that the ad included a banner at the top of the page which stated “72 hour savings” and that the page also included the claim “up to 50% OFF”. While we noted that if a consumer clicked on the banner or the “Promotions” tab they were taken to a page which listed all of the products included in the sale, we considered that the banner did not make clear that the sale was only limited to nine products which were presented with “was, was, now” price claims. Therefore, we considered that consumers were likely to assume that any product listed on the site with a “was” and a “now” price was included in the time-limited “72 hour” sale, and that the price would increase to the “was” price at the end of the 72-hour promotional period. Because items listed with “was” and “now” prices were not include in the 72-hour sale and those items were still available at the lower price after the sale had ended, we considered that the claim “72 hour savings MUST END WEDNESDAY” and the countdown clock were misleading.
On that point, 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), 3.17 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), 3.31 3.31 Marketing communications must not falsely claim that the marketer is about to cease trading or move premises. They must not falsely state that a product, or the terms on which it is offered, will be available only for a very limited time to deprive consumers of the time or opportunity to make an informed choice. (Availability) 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).
We understood that because the “Sleigh Walnut … Computer Desk” was not available in any of Oak Furniture Land’s showrooms, the “was” price was based on the price at which the product was listed as on another website, www.oflhome.co.uk, which was also owned by JB Global Ltd and offered a number of the same items as www.oakfurnitureland.co.uk.
We considered that consumers viewing the ad would believe that the price of £689.63 was the price at which the product was usually sold by Oak Furniture Land. Having viewed the sales data provided we noted that of the 70 transactions that had taken place from December 2014 to June 2015, only four of the desks had been sold at the full price of £689.63, all of which had been purchased from www.oflhome.co.uk, and that the remaining 66 desks had been sold for less. We did not consider that that evidence was sufficient to show that their usual selling price for the product was £689.63. Therefore, we considered that the savings claim had not been substantiated and concluded that the ad was misleading.
On that point, 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), 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 ads must not appear in their current form again. We told Oak Furniture Land to ensure they made clear which items were included in their sales in future, and to not imply that a stated price was time-limited, or represented a discount from the price at which the product was usually sold, if that was not the case. We also told them to ensure they held adequate evidence to show that any stated “was” prices represented the price at which the relevant product was usually sold.