A circular for a dental practice, seen on 3 August 2015, included text that stated "Prices NHS comparable" and "Reigate Gentle Dental prides itself on quality, affordable patient care and strives to keep its prices NHS comparable despite delivering aesthetic dentistry for optimum health".
The complainant, who understood the prices of the services offered by Reigate Gentle Dental were higher than those of the NHS, challenged whether the claim "prices NHS comparable" was misleading and could be substantiated.
Reigate Gentle Dental provided details of the prices for a hygiene visit offered by three of their local NHS competitors, which they obtained through calling their competitors’ practices. They stated the prices showed that their price for a hygiene visit was cheaper than their competitors.
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to interpret the claims “Prices NHS comparable” and “Reigate Gentle Dental … strives to keep its prices NHS comparable” as meaning that the prices for each of the services offered by Reigate Gentle Dental were similar to those charged for equivalent services by the NHS.
We noted that Reigate Gentle Dental’s price for a ‘hygiene/scale and polish appointment’ was £15, and that they charged £22 for a check-up and examination. While they maintained that the NHS practices they had contacted charged more than them for a hygiene visit, we noted that published NHS dental charges were separated into three price bands. The lowest band, which cost £18.80, covered a check-up including scaling, polishing and marginal correction of fillings. It did not therefore appear that Reigate Gentle Dental were cheaper or substantially similar to the NHS cost for equivalent services.
Further, we had not seen robust evidence to demonstrate that the prices of any of Reigate Gentle Dental’s services were similar to the prices of the equivalent services offered by the NHS. We therefore considered that the claims “prices NHS comparable” had not been substantiated and were misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code rules (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), 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. and 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 ad must not appear in its current form again. We told Reigate Gentle Dental not to make the claim “prices NHS comparable” or similar claims in future ads unless they held robust evidence to substantiate the claims.