A promotion, seen on www.groupon.co.uk in September 2012, stated "Afternoon Tea With Sparkling Wine for Two for £25 at Danubius Hotel, Regents Park (53% off)".
The complainant challenged whether the advertised saving was genuine, because they discovered that the hotel was promoting the same offer for £24.95.
Groupon asserted that they had procedures in place to try and ensure that their partners did not run simultaneous offers which might conflict with their own promotions. They said they understood that a Groupon customer would rightly feel disappointed and misled if they saw a partner promoting a simultaneous offer. They explained, however, that they clearly instructed all their offer partners not to run conflicting offers and that that was one of their contractual obligations. They also stated that they checked for the existence of conflicting offers on a number of occasions throughout a deal's "lifecycle" including contract negotiation, during Quality Assurance checks and immediately before the deal was published online.
Groupon explained that when the deal was submitted and vetted by various teams, no conflicting offer was being promoted on the partner's website, or had been advertised in the hotel itself. They stated that it was only once the Groupon deal had gone live that, due to a miscommunication, the hotel had promoted their own offer both on their website and at the hotel itself. Groupon highlighted that as soon as the mistake was realised, the offer was removed from the hotel's website as were the promotional materials which had been advertised on the premises. They asserted that had they been aware of the existence of a conflicting offer before publishing the ad, they would have adjusted the deal and how it was promoted accordingly.
Groupon provided e-mail correspondence between themselves and the hotel, from before the deal had been published, in which the hotel confirmed that their afternoon tea package was usually sold for £26.50 per person. They also provided two of the hotel's menus; one listed the price of afternoon tea at £19.50 per head and the second listed a glass of prosecco at £7.00. Therefore Groupon considered that the menus showed that the usual price of afternoon tea and prosecco for two was £53.00. In addition, they provided copies of two receipts from November 2012, when a Groupon voucher was still valid but the hotel was no longer promoting their own offer, which showed that the package had been purchased for £53.00.
Groupon also explained that the hotel had charged £26.50 per person for the afternoon tea package since August 2012, and they therefore considered that the price of £53.00 for two, was an established price. In contrast, whilst they acknowledged that the hotel had run their own offer during September and October, they highlighted that it had been available on an ad hoc basis and therefore considered that the hotel's offer price of £24.95 for two was not an established price.
The ASA acknowledged that Groupon had a number of procedures in place to try to ensure that their partners did not promote any conflicting offers for the lifetime of a Groupon offer. We understood, however, that despite those precautionary measures, in this case the partner had decided to run their own offer concurrently with the Groupon offer, which was 5p cheaper than the Groupon offer. We also noted that once Groupon were aware of the error and had contacted the hotel, the hotel immediately removed their own offer.
We understood that the hotel's menu from August 2012 listed the price of afternoon tea at £19.50 per person and a glass of prosecco at £7.00, and therefore the price of the afternoon tea and prosecco package for two was £53.00. We noted the e-mail correspondence between Groupon and the hotel, and understood that before the offer had been published, the hotel had confirmed that the cost of afternoon tea for two was £53.00. We considered, however, that Groupon should have queried how long those menus had been in circulation and sought confirmation that the hotel had actually sold a number of afternoon tea packages for £53.00 before including the "53% off" claim in the ad. We acknowledged that Groupon had provided receipts from the hotel showing that the afternoon tea package for two had been purchased at £53.00, but noted that those receipts were from November 2012, which was after the ad had appeared. We also noted that the promotion did not state that it was an "introductory offer". We considered that Groupon had not provided sufficient evidence to show that prior to the ad being published the package had been generally sold at £53.00, and therefore concluded that the savings claim of 53% had not been substantiated. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading and the savings claim was not genuine.
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 8.1 8.1 Promoters are responsible for all aspects and all stages of their promotions. (Sales promotions).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Groupon to ensure their savings claims were genuine in future.