Summary of Council decision
Three ads were investigated. The complaint was Not upheld in relation to ad (a) and Upheld in relation to ads (b) and (c).
Three sales promotion price labels, seen in store in June 2017, for carpet retailer United Carpets:
a. The label for the “Superior Soft” range featured text that stated “Buy one metre get one metre free”. Further text stated “Only £33.46 m²”. Large text below this stated “That’s equivalent to only £16.73 m²”. Beneath this was slightly smaller text stating “That’s £13.99 per Sq. Yard”.
b. The label for the “Soft Silk Supreme” range featured text that stated “Half Price”. Further text stated “Was £57.98 [crossed out]. Now only £28.99 m². Below this was slightly smaller text inside a box that stated “That’s £24.24 per Sq. Yard”.
c. The label for the “Zurich Heathers” carpet featured text that stated “Save £££s”. Further small text stated “Was £31.98 per sq. metre in our VIP area”. Large black text on a yellow background below this stated “only £14.99 per sq. metre”. Further red text of the same size, in an oval on a white background, stated “That’s £12.53 per sq. yard”.
Carpetright plc challenged whether the “per square yard” price claims in ads (a), (b) and (c) were misleading, because they believed the ads created an impression that they represented further savings against the “per metre square” prices.
United Carpets (Franchisor) Ltd stated that it was never their intention to give the impression that the square yard price was an additional saving from the square metre price. They said that they had never received a complaint from a customer about this issue. It was a legal requirement that the price was expressed per metre, and they had met this requirement by including the per metre price on all their labels. United Carpets stated that their experience suggested that the average consumer who purchased their products still needed and valued the per yard price as it was the unit of measurement that they were familiar with, understood and looked for. They included the price per square yard in order to provide customers with a point of reference and prevent them from having to make the calculation themselves.
United Carpets stated that the Price Marking Order 2004 permitted the inclusion of a supplementary indication of quantity, such as per yard, provided that the per square metre price predominated and the price per supplementary indication of quantity was expressed in characters no larger than the price per metre. They said this was the case with all of the ads. They stated that the price per square yard did not include any language that suggested a saving. Furthermore, the average consumer would know that a square metre is a larger area than a square yard and consequently would understand that the difference in price was due to difference in size, rather than a price saving. They also believed that any consumer considering purchasing this type of product would study the product information in much more detail than would be the case for purchases of many other types of product. United Carpets believed that the average, reasonably well-informed, reasonably observant and circumspect consumer would not be misled by the ad.
Upheld in relation to ads (b) and (c) only
The ASA considered that the requirements of the Price Marking Order 2004, as well as those of the Weights and Measures Act 1985 (as amended), would affect the way prices were generally presented to consumers, and would therefore influence consumers’ expectations of how price claims would be presented in ads. We understood that weights and measures legislation required that most weighing or measuring of goods at the point of sale or letting should be exclusively in metric, with limited exceptions. Further, in accordance with the price marking legislation, imperial units and measures were only permitted as a supplementary indication provided they accompanied an indication of quantity in metric unit that was more prominent of the two. Given the mandatory requirements on an indication of quantities at the point of sale and also subsequently in advertising and labelling, we considered that consumers were likely to expect that products sold in bulk would ordinarily be priced in metric, and that carpets would predominantly be sold in metric units.
In ad (a) we noted that while the per square yard price appeared below the per square metre price, it was displayed in a smaller font. We considered that the relative sizes of the two prices and the description of the unit prices made clear that the second price was a conversion and represented additional information rather than a further reduction from the price listed above it. We concluded that the presentation of ad (a) was unlikely to mislead consumers and did not breach the Code.
In ad (b), the per square yard price was stated in text that was very slightly smaller than that of the preceding per square metre price. Furthermore, it stated “That’s £24.24 per Sq. Yard” and was outlined in a box. We considered that the combination of the presentation of the column of decreasing prices, the very minor difference in font size between the metric and imperial prices, and the emphasis placed on the last price was likely to give consumers the impression that the per square yard price was the last in a series of reductions.
Ad (c) stated “That’s £12.53 per sq. yard” in red text, inside a bold black oval. We noted that the font size was only slightly smaller than that of the price in square metres. We considered that the presentation of the ad, featuring a series of decreasing price points, and the emphasis placed on the final price by circling it and using colours that contrasted with the background, gave the impression that square yard price represented a further reduction on the square metre price that featured directly above it. Text at the top of the ad stated “Save £££s”, which further added to the impression that the ad described multiple reductions.
Given the visual prominence and the positioning of the “that’s xx per sq. yard” price claims in ads (b) and (c), we considered that consumers were likely to expect those prices to represent a further reduction from the preceding price, rather than the same price being shown in different units. We noted that the product labels were comparatively small in relation to the products themselves, and the accompanying text that denoted the unit measurements was considerably smaller than the actual price claims. We considered that the text denoting the unit measures could easily be overlooked by consumers in the context of all the information presented on the labels.
We concluded that the layout and presentation of the price statements in ads (b) and (c) were misleading and therefore breached the Code.
We investigated ad (a) under CAP Code (Edition 12) 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) 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), but did not find it in breach. Ads (b) and (c) breached CAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) 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).
Ads (b) and (c) must not appear again in the forms complained about. We told United Carpets (Franchisor) Ltd to ensure that future ads did not use different quantity units in a way that presented prices in a misleading manner.