Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, one of which was Not upheld. The other was informally resolved after the advertiser agreed to amend or withdraw their advertising.
The website www.carphonewarehouse.com, seen in December 2017, stated "PRICE PROMISE. Found a cheaper deal at O2, EE or Vodafone? We'll match it & pay the first month's line rental ...".
The complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading because it did not state that the offer only applied to phones purchased on pay monthly contracts.
The Carphone Warehouse Ltd said their price promise only applied to pay monthly connections and they believed they had communicated that to consumers in a number of ways. They pointed out that the headline in the ad stated that should a customer to find a better deal, they would "match it and pay the first month's rental". They said that was important because the essence of the promise was to encourage consumers to shop with them by rewarding them with the value of a month's line rental. They said that in the mobile phone market "line rental" referred to the price that a customer paid in order to utilise their phone with the mobile services listed in their chosen tariff. They believed it was self-evident that their price promise could not apply to a Pay As You Go purchase because there was no line rental to reimburse. That rationale applied equally to not just Pay As You Go items but also chargers, cases and many other items they sold which had no monthly line rental.
They explained that the headline also linked to a web page that provided a step-by-step guide on how customers could claim under their price promise. That page also provided further information on the scheme's qualifying criteria. In particular, it stated, "This means if you find a better upgrade, pay monthly or pay monthly SIM only deal on any smartphone at O2, EE or Vodafone, we'll match it and pay your first month's line rental ...". The bottom of that page also featured a link to the price promise's full terms and conditions.
Furthermore, text towards the bottom of the home page stated "Price Promise - if you find an upgrade, pay monthly SIM only or pay monthly deal for less at O2, EE or Vodafone, we'll match it and pay the equivalent of your first month's standard line rental via cheque ...".
The website also contained full terms and conditions, including a "Qualifying deals" section that stated "This only applies to pay monthly new connections and upgrades (including SIM-only monthly contracts). Excludes pay-as-you-go SIM only, SIM-free handsets, business and any 'gift-with-purchase' or 'cashback offers'".
The ASA noted that the headline claim stated "Found a cheaper deal at O2, EE or Vodafone? We'll match it & pay the first month's line rental". We considered that consumers were likely to interpret that, and in particular the reference to the "first month" being paid for, to mean the offer was only available on items where there was an ongoing monthly payment obligation.
We understood that the offer included pay monthly mobile phone purchases (including SIM-only monthly contracts) and that it excluded pay-as-you-go SIM only and SIM-free handsets.
We noted that further explanation was provided about the offer via the link in the headline claim and at the bottom of the home page, as well as in the terms and conditions on the website; that information expressly stated that the offer only applied to upgrades, pay monthly SIM only or pay monthly phone deals at O2, EE or Vodafone. However, we considered that information was not sufficiently linked to the headline claim on the home page.
Notwithstanding that, we considered that because consumers were likely to understand from the claim "PRICE PROMISE. Found a cheaper deal at O2, EE or Vodafone? We'll match it & pay the first month's line rental ..." that the price promise only applied to mobile phone items with a monthly payment obligation, in particular pay monthly phones and pay monthly SIM only, and the offer did apply to those items, the claim was not likely to mislead.
We investigated the ad under 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) and 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.