A national press ad for Samuel Windsor, a menswear retailer, showed images of models wearing various items of clothing with text that stated, "Button-collar casual shirts. £18 RRP £60 - Buy any two shirts for only £30. save £42 off RRP... Quilted jackets. £59 RRP £199 Save £140. save £140 off RRP... Waxed Country jackets. £89 RRP £250 Save £161. save £161 off RRP...".
The complainant challenged whether the savings claims were misleading and could be substantiated because they understood that the quoted recommended retail prices (RRPs) differed significantly from the prices at which the items were generally sold.
Samuel Windsor said that their clothing line was usually sold at the higher prices on their website and via catalogues throughout the year. They also stated that their clothes could be purchased from other retailers.
Samuel Windsor submitted their catalogue and online sales data for the winter period (September 2013 to January 2014), which were representative of the two channels where the RRPs were charged. They provided figures that showed in that five-month period, 8% of their total unit of sales of the quilted jacket, 6% of sales by volume of the button-collar shirt and 5% of sales of the waxed country jacket were made at the RRPs. Furthermore, Samuel Windsor provided a copy of their 2013 winter catalogue along with six sales receipts for that season, illustrating that the items of clothing were generally sold at the higher prices.
The ASA noted the industry best practice regarding price comparisons as outlined in the Pricing Practices Guide (the Guide) from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The Guide was not binding on traders, the Courts or the ASA, but was to be taken into account when price statements were made in marketing communications, as clarified in the CAP Code. The Guide stated that traders should not use a recommended retail price, or similar, as a basis of comparison which was not genuine, or if it differed significantly from the price at which the product was generally sold.
We acknowledged that the clothing brand was owned by Samuel Windsor, which they sold directly via their website, catalogues and also through other retailers. We noted their 2013 winter catalogue showed that the clothes were advertised by Samuel Windsor at the higher prices, which the ad claimed were the recommended retail prices (RRPs). Furthermore, the sales receipts they provided demonstrated that Samuel Windsor had sold the clothes at the higher prices between September 2013 and January 2014.
We noted that only a small proportion of the items were sold at the RRPs by Samuel Windsor, through their website and catalogue. We also noted that Samuel Windsor had not provided robust evidence illustrating that the RRPs were the prices at which their clothes were generally sold by other stockists. Therefore, we concluded the savings claims had not been substantiated and were likely to mislead.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (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 3.40 3.40 Price comparisons must not mislead by falsely claiming a price advantage. Comparisons with a recommended retail prices (RRPs) are likely to mislead if the RRP differs significantly from the price at which the product or service is generally sold. (Price Comparisons).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Samuel Windsor to ensure that they held evidence to substantiate any savings claims in their future advertising.