Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A website and Facebook page for Quidco, which offered cashback to members on purchases made from third-party retailers, seen in September 2020:
a. The home page of the advertiser’s website www.quidco.com, was headed “Get cashback on your purchases”. Further down the page, a section headed “Get cashback every time you purchase” included the text “Quidco, the UK’s highest paying cashback site, helps you earn whenever you shop online”.
b. On the “Home” page of the advertiser’s Facebook page, text in a box headed “About” included “Quidco is the UK’s highest paying cashback service”.
Topcashback Ltd challenged whether the claim in both ads that Quidco was “the UK’s highest paying cashback” site/service was:
1. misleading and could be substantiated; and
Response1. & 2. Maple Syrup Media Ltd t/a Quidco said that the claims related to a guarantee that they would pay the highest cashback to their members, compared to other cashback services in the UK. Quidco provided a link to a page on their website which described the “Highest Cashback Guarantee”. It stated that in instances where members who had made a purchase and found a higher applicable cashback rate offered by any other UK cashback site, Quidco would match the higher rate, plus an additional amount on top.
The ASA understood that Quidco tracked the purchases of members who visited eligible third-party retailer online stores via the Quidco website. Once the retailer confirmed the purchase, Quidco paid cashback to the member. The amount of cashback was calculated as a percentage of the total purchase price; the percentage rate varied between retailers and was higher for Quidco ‘Premium’ members. In that context we considered consumers would understand the claim “the UK’s highest paying cashback site” in ad (a) and “the UK’s highest paying cashback service” in ad (b) to mean that Quidco always had a higher percentage cashback rate for its members (of all levels) than that offered by their competitors. Members would therefore in all instances receive a higher amount of cashback from Quidco than they would receive from any other UK cashback service on the same purchase. We therefore expected Quidco to provide evidence showing that they regularly monitored the cashback rates offered by their competitors and that they ensured their own cashback rates were always higher.
We understood that Quidco offered a “Highest Cashback Guarantee”. However, that guarantee related to a system where, after making a purchase and receiving cashback from Quidco, and finding that they could have got a higher amount of cashback from another service, members could ask Quidco to beat that amount. It was not a system by which Quidco ensured they always offered higher cashback rates to their members than offered by other UK cashback services. We considered that the “Highest Cashback Guarantee” therefore was not relevant or suitable evidence to substantiate the advertising claims as consumers would understand them. Because consumers would understand the claim “the UK’s highest paying cashback” website/service to mean that Quidco ensured they always paid a higher amount of cashback compared to their competitors, and that was not the case, we concluded the claims in ads (a) and (b) were misleading and had not been substantiated.
On that point, ads (a) and (b) 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 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
The CAP Code required that comparisons with identifiable competitors must be verifiable. That meant that an ad which featured a comparison with an identifiable competitor or competitors needed to include, or direct consumers to, sufficient information to allow them to understand the comparison, and be able to check the claims were accurate, or ask someone suitably qualified to do so. We considered that the claim “the UK’s highest paying cashback” was a comparison with other UK cashback services and was therefore required to be verifiable. Notwithstanding that we considered the claims to be misleading, Quidco said they had intended them to refer to their guarantee. However, the ads did not make reference to this or direct consumers to where they could find further information about the basis of the claim. In addition, because Quidco did not hold evidence that they always paid a higher amount of cashback compared to their competitors as the claims implied, they therefore did not make information available to consumers to check the claims were accurate. For those reasons we concluded the “UK’s highest paying cashback” claims were not verifiable and as such breached the Code.
On that point, ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.35 3.35 They must objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature of those products, which may include price. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
The claims must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Maple Syrup Ltd t/a Quidco not to make the claim “UK’s highest paying cashback website/service”, or similar claims that would be interpreted by consumers in the same way, unless they were regularly monitoring their competitors’ cashback rates and updating their own rates accordingly. We also told them to ensure that their ads included, or directed consumers to, sufficient information that they could verify such claims against identifiable competitors.