Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were upheld.
A website for wood burning stove retailer Wood Burner World, www.woodburnerworld.co.uk, seen on 18 June 2017. The web page, which promoted the ‘Mitra Multifuel Woodburning Stove - 6kW’, stated “£169.97 (Inc. VAT) RRP £299.98 [crossed out] Save £130”. The page also contained text that stated, “Offer ends in” and featured a countdown clock below.
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the claim “RRP £229.98 [crossed out] Save £130” was misleading and could be substantiated; and
2. the use of the countdown clock was misleading, because they understood that the product was advertised at a lower price, rather than at £229.98, when the countdown had finished.
1. Online Home Retail Ltd t/a Wood Burner World said they would no longer make RRP claims on any products.
2. Wood Burner World said that their prices would be fixed for a period and then re-set depending on market price levels, which might go up or down. They stated that their ads did not state or imply anything other than that the product price displayed was fixed for the period shown.
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand that the quoted RRP price of £299.98, which was crossed through, represented the price at which the Mitra Multifuel wood burning stove was generally sold across the market. However, we also considered that within the context of the ad, and particularly in conjunction with the countdown clock, consumers were likely to expect the RRP price, which was the only higher reference price stated in the ad, to also represent the price at which the wood burning stove was usually sold on the Wood Burner World website. As such, we expected Wood Burner World to hold evidence to demonstrate that consumers would be able to achieve genuine savings of £130 against the price at which the stove was generally sold across the market, as well as against the usual selling price of the product on the Wood Burner World website.
Although we welcomed Wood Burner World’s willingness to make changes, we had not seen any documentary evidence to demonstrate that the wood burner stove advertised was generally sold cross the market, and usually sold on the website at £299.98, and that consumer would therefore achieve genuine savings against those prices. Because the claim “RRP £229.98 [crossed out] Save £130” had not been substantiated, we concluded that it 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) and 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).
We considered that consumers were likely to understand from the countdown clock, which was positioned below the quoted prices, that the discount offer was time-limited and that once the countdown had completed, the product would be offered at the usual selling price of £229.98 again.
Notwithstanding Wood Burner World’s intended use of the countdown clock, we had not been provided with any documentary evidence to demonstrate that the discounted price was no longer available after the countdown and the product price would revert back to £229.98. Because we had not seen evidence that the discount offer was genuinely time limited, or that the product returned to its usual selling price after the countdown had finished, in line with consumers’ expectations of the offer, we concluded that the use of the countdown clock 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) and 8.17.4.e 8.17.4.e Closing dates must not be changed unless unavoidable circumstances beyond the control of the promoter make it necessary and either not to change the date would be unfair to those who sought to participate within the original terms, or those who sought to participate within the original terms will not be disadvantaged by the change. (Significant conditions for promotions).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Wood Burner World to ensure that they did not make savings claims that were likely to be understood as being based on RRPs or the prices at which the products were usually sold, unless they held adequate evidence to substantiate those claims. We also told them to ensure that future ads did not misleadingly imply that discount offers were time-limited, for example by using a countdown clock, if that was not the case.