A product listing for a “Grey Memory Foam Divan Bed”, seen on www.wowcher.co.uk on 27 March 2019, included a roundel contained the price “FROM £99” above a scored through price of £469.01. Further down the page in the “Full details” section text stated “We’re offering you a grey memory foam cubed divan bed with headboard and mattress from just £99, saving you 79% off Komfet’s prices (correct as of 25.7.18).”
The National Bed Federation challenged whether the savings claims were misleading and could be substantiated.
Wowcher Ltd explained that it did not sell the bed itself. Its site allowed consumers to buy vouchers that could be used to buy products from the various merchants who advertised on it. They said the deal in question was listed by Durest Beds Ltd trading as Komfet and that all “from” prices represented the retail price on the Komfet website.
Wowcher said they had measures in place to ensure the accuracy of the discounts advertised on its website, which included obtaining screenshots from the merchant’s website to confirm the product was retailed at the advertised “from” price and by obtaining sales invoices from the merchant to confirm the product had been sold at that price. They said those checks were carried out regularly throughout the lifetime of the deal. Wowcher supplied invoices from Durest Beds, trading under the name Komfet, showing the sales they had made of the two-foot, six-inch bed without drawers at the higher price in the month the ad was seen and the six months that preceded it. They also explained that £29.99 was deducted from the “from” price advertised on the deal to take account of the £29.99 delivery charge when buying using the voucher, because delivery was free if buying direct from the Komfet website.
The ASA considered consumers on the Wowcher website would interpret the price “FROM £99” above a scored through price of “£469.01” and the claims to “save up to 79%” to mean that £469.01 was the usual selling price of the product against which those who bought the voucher from Wowcher could obtain a discount. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s (CTSI) Guidance for Traders on Pricing Practices stated, “If your proposed pricing practice explicitly or by implication indicates a saving against another price you must be able to satisfy yourself that the quoted saving is genuine and is therefore not unfair”. It invited traders to ask themselves questions to establish whether a price was a genuine reference for a saving, including, “Were significant sales made at the higher price prior to the comparison being made or was there any reasonable expectation that consumers would purchase the product at the higher price?”. It explained that claims were less likely to comply if, “A retailer repeatedly uses a reference price knowing that it had not previously sold a significant number of units at that price”.
While Wowcher did not sell products on its site directly, and instead offered vouchers that could be redeemed to buy the products from merchants advertising on its site, we considered that where its listings indicated that the vouchers offered savings against the usual selling prices of the products the number of units sold by the merchant was an important consideration in determining whether such a reference price was genuine. For the model in question, the two-foot, six-inch bed without drawers, the information supplied by Wowcher showed that Wowcher had sold one voucher while, in the month of the ad and the six months that preceded it, Komfet had sold 41 beds, fairly evenly spread across the seven-month period. We considered Wowcher had demonstrated that £469.01 was Komfet's usual selling price and concluded that the savings claim was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (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) 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.
No further action necessary.