A TV ad for Wickes, seen on 13 September 2019, showed a couple dancing and then families preparing food and eating in different kitchens. The voice-over stated, "... we take care of everything. From experts who have the know how to design your perfect kitchen to an installation service you can trust … book your free design appointment today". A large box stated "Wickes Free design service worth over £200 - Book at [website address]".
The complainant challenged whether the claim "Free design service worth over £200" was misleading and could be substantiated.
Wickes Building Supplies Ltd (Wickes) said no charge for the design service was made to customers, whether or not they went on to purchase a kitchen from Wickes. This was also irrespective of the level of design service or the amount of design consultant time they required. They said that this was not the case with other kitchen retailers.
They supplied examples of web pages from interior designers and kitchen companies which stated that design service fees ranging from £165.83 to £400 would be deducted in full or in part from the final payment if a customer went on to purchase a kitchen or other project. If they chose not to go ahead, they paid the full cost of the design service.
Wickes believed that, as a service that other businesses charged for and which was capable of being charged for as a separate service, they were entitled to point out that there was no charge for the service at Wickes whether or not a customer went ahead with the purchase. Wickes acknowledged that the amount of input from the designer would vary from customer to customer, but said that the “over £200” figure was based on salary and employer costs and the amount of time a designer would spend with a customer who went through the full design service. Wickes said not all their competitors offered a design service and that, to put a figure on it in the way Wickes did, gave consumers an idea of the value of the service they would receive.
Clearcast said they had initially questioned how a price could be put on a free service but subsequently agreed that it had an inherent value. They believed the claim was justified as long as the ad made clear that the design service was “worth” the figure claimed and did not claim that it was a price previously charged by Wickes.
The ASA considered viewers would interpret the claim to mean that a kitchen design service that they would pay £200 for elsewhere came free of charge at Wickes, or that they had themselves charged that amount for the service. Because Wickes did not normally charge for the service, they therefore needed to show that consumers would pay £200 for similar services elsewhere in order to claim "worth over £200".
We considered that the evidence provided by Wickes demonstrated that many companies charged for a kitchen design service and that, where companies made a charge, the £200 figure appeared to be in line with charges for a similar service. In the very specific context of an ad which promoted a supply and fitting service, and which took into account factors which included the home environment and requirements of individual customers, we considered that was a sufficient basis for the claim. We therefore concluded that the claim was not likely to mislead.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is 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 3.26 3.26 Advertisements must not describe an element of a package as "free" if that element is included in the package price, unless consumers are likely to regard it as an additional benefit because it has recently been added to the package without increasing its price. ("Free" claims), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.