A leaflet inserted into a national newspaper for Lidl’s Black Friday sale, seen on 25 November 2021, featured a number of recommended retail price (RRP) claims: a “Sharp 42” Full HD Android TV” with a price of £259 and an RRP of £409.99; an “Emma Original Mattress (single)” with a price of £199.99 and an RRP of £499; an “Emma Original Mattress (double)” with a price of £329 and an RRP of £799, a “Gtech Cordless Upright Vacuum Cleaner” with a price of £99.99 and an RRP of £199.99, an “ASUS 11.6” Chromebook Flip” with a price of £149.99 and an RRP of £399.99; and a “Beldray Steam Surge Pro Platinum” iron with a price of £39.99 and an RRP of £79.99.
Aldi Stores Ltd, who believed that the quoted RRPs differed significantly from the prices at which the items were generally sold, challenged whether the RRP claims could be substantiated and were misleading.
Lidl Great Britain Ltd said the prices in the leaflet were the prices at which the products were generally sold. They believed consumers generally understood the meaning of RRPs and explained that they had used them to avoid suggesting that the products had previously been sold by Lidl at the higher price.
Prior to publishing their Black Friday leaflet, the prices were validated by their buying team to ensure that they were genuine and reflected the price that those specific products (brand, model) were generally sold in the marketplace. In some cases, that included reference to manufacturers’ own websites (Beldray, Gtech and Emma); to online retailers such as Amazon and Littlewoods; and to retailers with both online and high-street presence such as Argos and Curry's.
They provided screenshots from manufacturers’ and other retailers’ websites showing prices for the advertised products around the time the ad appeared. They acknowledged that an error meant that the RRP for the Asus laptop was shown as £399.99 not £339 and apologised for that error. They said that since the ad appeared they had updated their processes in respect of the evidence they held for RRP comparisons.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the RRP claims in the ads to be the price recommended by the manufacturer and at which retailers generally sold the goods across the market.Lidl provided screenshots from a number of different websites to substantiate the RRP claims in the ad.
In respect of the ASUS laptop, Lidl provided a screenshot of the manufacturer’s website which showed the price as £339.99. We understood that in the ad, the RRP had been incorrectly listed. Notwithstanding that, we considered that RRPs set by the manufacturer did not constitute evidence that they were the prices at which the products were generally sold.
In relation to the Sharp TV, the Emma mattresses and the Beldray iron, Lidl provided screenshots that showed the product was available to purchase at the advertised RRP on one online retailer’s website around the time the ad was published. They also provided screenshots of the manufacturers’ website for the mattresses and iron, but as noted above, that did not constitute evidence for establishing the price at which the products were generally sold.
For the Gtech vacuum cleaner, Lidl sent screenshots of three online retailers’ websites (two of which were also high street retailers) and the manufacturer’s website showing that it was available to purchase at the advertised RRP on those websites around the time the ad appeared. We noted that those three retailers appeared to be the main stockists of the product and we had been unable to find another online retailer that stocked the product.
We considered Lidl had provided enough evidence to show that the Gtech vacuum cleaner was generally available across the market at the advertised RRP around the time the ad was published. However, we considered that for the other products (the ASUS laptop, Sharp TV, Emma mattresses and Beldray iron), given the number of retailers selling those products across the market, the examples provided (which consisted of one other retailer and, in some cases, the manufacturers’ website) were insufficient to demonstrate that the products were generally sold at the RRPs claimed in the ads.
For those reasons, we concluded that the RRP and savings claims for those products had not been substantiated and were misleading.
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 3.40 3.40 Price comparisons must not mislead by falsely claiming a price advantage. Comparisons with a recommended retail prices (RRPs) are likely to mislead if the RRP differs significantly from the price at which the product or service is generally sold. (Price comparisons).
The ads must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Lidl Great Britain Ltd to ensure that that future references to RRPs reflected the price at which the products concerned were generally sold. We also told them to ensure that they held adequate evidence to substantiate their savings claims.