A website for a postage comparison service, www.parcel2go.com, seen in June 2016, stated "The Cheapest Parcel Delivery in the UK". Next to this claim, text within a roundel stated “LOWEST PRICE GUARANTEE” and, below, further text stated “Guaranteed lowest price to Europe No Cheaper way to send a parcel”.
The complainant, who understood that cheaper delivery was available elsewhere, challenged whether the claim "The Cheapest Parcel Delivery in the UK" was misleading and could be substantiated.
Parcel2Go.com Ltd stated that they sold delivery only, which they understood was less common within the marketplace because most providers offered extra compensation (which would be more expensive). They said the options they sold were cheaper and that the claim was not "cheaper for delivery and extra compensation". Parcel2Go.com said they had an IT system that scraped other websites and flagged instances where they were not the cheapest, at which point they would change their price. They provided a spreadsheet showing the prices for a variety of service options and parcel weights for themselves and four competing comparison services. The spreadsheet stated that the majority of their prices were cheaper and that ten were the same cost as a competitor. They understood there to be tens of thousands of prices in the marketplace, but for the core prices they offered the cheapest delivery service. Parcel2Go.com also said they had a lowest price guarantee, which helped to flag competitor pricing that could be missed by their IT system. If there were instances where they weren't the cheapest they would alter their pricing and allow the customer to ship at the price they had seen. They said that they had only received five requests under this policy and provided details.
The ad stated "The Cheapest Parcel Delivery in the UK" and “Guaranteed lowest price to Europe”. We considered that consumers and traders would understand these statements as claims that, compared to all other parcel delivery services available in the UK (including Northern Ireland), Parcel2Go.com would always have a cheaper option currently available. However, we considered that the claim “No Cheaper way to send a parcel” would be understood as a statement that the advertiser’s prices were the same as (not cheaper than) their competitors’ lowest prices. The ad also stated “LOWEST PRICE GUARANTEE” and we considered consumers and traders would understand this to mean that, should they find a lower price elsewhere, the advertiser would guarantee to beat it. We therefore considered that it was unclear as to whether Parcel2Go offered current cheaper prices than their competitors, offered current parity with them or offered a guarantee to change a price to beat a cheaper competitor offer.
We noted Parcel2Go’s statement that they monitored the marketplace and lowered any of their prices that were higher than their competitors. We noted the spreadsheet provided, but were concerned that it only compared prices with competitors, rather than also against couriers and delivery services direct. We also noted that for some services they offered the same price as the listed competitors, rather than a lower price. We understood that Parcel2Go offered delivery options without extra insurance, which they stated was an uncommon service, and that other operators would often include the cost of insurance within the price for a delivery option. The complainant had provided a set of quotes from Parcel2Go for delivery from London to Belfast showing that the service was cheaper directly through a courier service than if the same courier service was booked through Parcel2Go. We understood that this courier service had included basic insurance as standard and that it was therefore not offered on the same basis as Parcel2Go. However, we considered the claim “cheapest” focused solely on the cost of sending a parcel to a particular destination in the UK, regardless of whether or not additional insurance was included in competitors’ prices. We therefore considered that consumers would still expect the insurance-free option offered through Parcel2Go to be cheaper than the inclusive version offered by the courier direct, and that this would be the case for delivery services to the whole of the UK.
The website featured information about a price-matching promise, and we therefore understood that consumers finding a lower price elsewhere should be able to receive that same price from the advertiser through this promise. We acknowledged the examples Parcel2Go provided, and noted that in each instance customers were offered a lower price than the competitor in question. However, we considered that the headline claims implied that the advertiser's current prices were either already the lowest, had parity with other low prices or that their guarantee would beat a lower competitor price, not that their prices would be on a par with the cheapest once the price promise had been used. As such, Parcel2go.com should be able to demonstrate that their usual prices were in line with likely consumer and trader understanding of their claims. We considered that a claim that their prices were always cheaper would be more attractive to prospective customers than a price promise. In the absence of evidence to show their prices were in line with the likely interpretation of their claims and because the combination of statements rendered the meaning of the claims ambiguous, we considered that the ad was misleading and concluded that it breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
and 3.3 (Misleading advertising),
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.
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) and
Marketing communications that include a price comparison must make the basis of the comparison clear.
CAP has published a Help Note on Retailers' Price Comparisons and a Help Note on Lowest Price Claims and Price Promises. (Price comparisons).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Parcel2Go.com Ltd to ensure that future ads made clear the type of price comparison being made and that suitable evidence was held to demonstrate their prices were in line with the likely interpretation of such claims.