Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
The website www.wrenkitchens.com for a kitchen manufacturer and retailer, featured a page headed 'Kitchen Price Comparison'. A large graphic headed 'Wren 1st for Kitchens' featured the following claims, "44% less than Magnet ... 29% less than Wickes ... 24% less than Homebase ... 11% less than B&Q". Text underneath the graphic stated "*Competitor 'less than' prices refer to prices for cabinets". A table further down the page headed "B&Q (Flat Pack) Wren are Fully Assembled" listed nine of B&Q's products in one column and then the "% saving at Wren" in the next column, including "B&Q C&L White Studio Gloss Slab ... 20%". Small print above the table stated "Price comparison percentage differences are made against a basket of up to 32 comparable kitchen units ... we have compared our prices against the most popular 32 cabinet sizes and trims (listed below) in the UK kitchen market". Another page featured a graphic headed "We'll Beat Any Quote", which featured a podium with medals. The gold medal stated "Wren - 1st for Prices" and the silver medal had "B&Q" written on it.
B&Q challenged whether:
1. the claim "11% less than B&Q" was misleading and could be substantiated; and
2. the price comparison table was misleading, because they did not believe it was clear which products had been compared, and consumers would therefore be unable to verify the price comparisons for themselves.
1. Wren Kitchens Ltd said they had taken the 32 most popular cabinet sizes and trims, across all nine kitchen ranges where they and B&Q offered a directly comparable product, and had added the prices together in order to obtain a "total all units" value for each of Wren Kitchens and B&Q in respect of each pair of comparable ranges. Those overall figures were then compared in order to determine which supplier was cheaper and by how much. They explained that where either they or B&Q did not supply one of the cabinets or trims in a specific range, those items would be excluded from the comparison to ensure it was fair. Wren Kitchens told us they understood that B&Q supplied 96 different types of cabinet overall, excluding those which only differed due to their internal colour, but that their comparison focused on the 32 different types of cabinet most commonly purchased by Wren Kitchens consumers to create a standard kitchen, which they believed would also be the most popular at B&Q if their sales were to be analysed. They said they did not feel they had a duty to compare all comparable cabinets, provided that enough were included to make the comparison representative, particularly because the average kitchen would only be comprised of 13 cabinets, which would not necessarily be of different types or sizes. Also, they pointed out that other kitchen retailers regularly based price comparisons on priced-up examples of different kitchen layouts, which only compared a very limited number of cabinets. They provided us with a spreadsheet detailing all of the items compared and their prices, supported by published B&Q price lists and their own price list along with customer receipts from the relevant period, because their price list was not published. The price difference on each pair of comparable kitchen ranges varied between 3% and 20% and the average price difference was 11%.
2. Wren Kitchens said they believed the price comparison was completely clear and transparent because they had stated the B&Q ranges included in the comparison, along with a list of all 32 cabinets and trims that were potentially included in the comparison and the date the prices had been compared. They advised that, whilst they did not provide an individual cabinet by cabinet breakdown of the price comparison on their website, consumers could access that information when visiting a Wren Kitchens store or they could use the planner feature on the website, which allowed consumers to pick the Wren Kitchens items they required and find out how much they would cost.
The ASA noted Wren Kitchens had sought to substantiate the claim "11% less than B&Q" in their "Kitchen Price Comparison" by comparing the prices for 32 kitchen cabinets, across the nine kitchen ranges where they and B&Q offered a comparable product. We also noted the comparison did not take into account other elements of a kitchen, such as appliances, but considered that the ad made it sufficiently clear that only cabinets had been compared and that the average consumer would understand that Wren Kitchens were cheaper than B&Q for kitchen cabinets, with kitchen cabinets comprising a substantial part of the cost of a new kitchen. However, while we acknowledged that the ad specifically stated that only 32 cabinet types had been compared, we did not consider it would be clear to consumers that only a relatively small proportion of the range of products available at B&Q had been included in the comparison. We further noted we had not seen any evidence to support the claim that the 32 cabinets used as the basis for the comparison were the most popular with UK consumers, and that the selection did not skew the total savings in an unrepresentative manner. We noted Wren Kitchens considered that because the average kitchen would only be comprised of 13 cabinets, some of which were likely to be of the same type, it was reasonable to base the comparison on 32 cabinet types, which was considerably more than the number of cabinets included in the sample kitchen comparisons used by their competitors. However, we were concerned that this meant the comparison would not reflect the normal shopping experience of consumers that were buying a new kitchen and, as such, the price saving claimed may not accurately reflect that likely to be achieved by consumers. Additionally, we were concerned that the price difference on each pair of ranges compared varied quite widely and therefore that an overall claim that Wren Kitchens’ prices were "11% less than B&Q" had the potential to mislead consumers, because depending on the specific range they were interested in, the saving could be considerably less. We therefore concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and that the ad was misleading.
On this point, the ad breached 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 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
While we accepted that Wren Kitchens had listed the names of the B&Q ranges that had been included in the comparison, we noted the table did not state the names of the Wren Kitchens ranges against which the comparisons had been made. We acknowledged that consumers may have been able to work out the ranges which were likely to have been compared, but we considered that that information should have been made explicit. We were also concerned that, although the 32 cabinet types and trims that had been used as the basis for the comparison were listed above the table, it was not clear which items had been included in each individual comparison of a B&Q and a Wren Kitchens range, or what the individual unit prices were at each retailer. We noted the planner function on the Wren Kitchens website may allow consumers to obtain the price of their desired kitchen at Wren Kitchens, but that it would not be possible to determine the B&Q price for comparable items in the same way. While we welcomed Wren's assurance that individual prices for both Wren Kitchens and B&Q units were available to consumers who visited a Wren Kitchens store, we noted the ad itself had not indicated to consumers how they could verify the comparison and, in any event, we considered that that information should have been made accessible from the Wren Kitchens website.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.35 3.35 They must objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature of those products, which may include price. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Wren Kitchens Ltd to ensure that the basis of any price comparison was clear and that it could be easily verified by consumers without the need to visit one of their stores.