A website for Wren Kitchens, www.wrenkitchens.com, seen on 9 October 2017. Text on the page which promoted a kitchen sale stated, “HALF PRICE KITCHENS PLUS AN EXTRA 20% OFF”. Subsequent text featured the heading, “Popular kitchens” with an image carousel underneath showing images of various kitchens with a red banner underneath which stated “HALF PRICE + EXTRA 20% OFF*”.
Wickes Building Supplies Ltd t/a Wickes and Kingfisher plc t/a B&Q Plc, two companies that believed that Wren Kitchens had been offering their kitchens at half price throughout 2017, challenged whether the savings claims were misleading and could be substantiated.
Wren Kitchens Ltd t/a Wren said the promotion of products for sale at “half price plus extra 20% off” had been run from time to time throughout 2017 and was clearly qualified by the following text or similar wording depending on the actual promotion: “Half price kitchens plus an extra 20% off applies to kitchen units only when you buy 5 or more kitchen units”. Wren said that was made abundantly clear on its website and in its catalogue and that the qualification could be found on any relevant page of the website and within any relevant brochure.
Wren said that the discount advertised in those promotions related solely to kitchen units that were sold at a set price per unit, which they referred to as the “list price”. Wren said that because units were manufactured to order, there were significant cost savings when a consumer placed an order for a larger number of units. Wren said it was in those circumstances that they used the promotions to pass on some of the cost savings back to the consumer, by offering a discount off the list price for customers who placed an order for a larger number of units. They said the customer would not be entitled to the discount unless they bought the sufficient number of units, in which case, the price would be the list price multiplied by the number of units ordered.
Wren said that bulk-buy and multi-buy discounts were commonly used promotional tools which the average consumer understood and that the list price was established as the current standard price per unit.
Wren said that from July to October 2017 they advertised the multi-buy discount in three different ways with each one offering a different additional saving to consumers. They said that the fact that material parts of the promotion were changing from time to time, being available for a limited period of time, would not be misleading for consumers to understand that the promotion was temporary.
Wren said that this was not an instance of “was/now” pricing which would require that they established previous prices for some time, but was a question of whether the consumer was genuinely getting better value because of the offer. They said that was the case because a consumer purchasing five or more units made a significant saving because the discount offered to customers for buying more than five units was always greater than 50% although the total discount was variable.
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand from the reference to “HALF PRICE KITCHENS PLUS AN EXTRA 20% OFF*” that Wren were promoting a further 20% reduction in an on-going half-price sale. We also considered that consumers were likely to understand that they would be able to make a genuine saving against the usual selling price for kitchens at the time the ad appeared and would generally understand the claim in the ad to be one that referred to a temporary price promotion. We acknowledged that the “extra 20% off” would be time limited but we considered that consumers would expect that the whole promotion, which included the “half price” element, would also be temporary.
We noted that there was an asterisk after the quoted “20% OFF”, which suggested that there were qualifications elsewhere in the ad. However, we considered it was not clear what the asterisk referred to and there was no qualification which explained that the promotion only applied to orders of five or more kitchen units. We acknowledged that the qualification was present in other examples of Wren’s advertising, but in the ad that was the subject of the investigation, there was no qualification. In any case, we considered that even if the qualification had been present that would not have altered consumers’ understanding that the claim “half price kitchens” referred to the price of the same kitchen before the promotion versus after it.
However, we understood that it was in fact a promotion which offered a reduction in cost-per-unit based on how many units were purchased and that prior to the October 2017 promotion, represented in the ad, that promotion or a similar variation of it, had run continuously between 16 January 2017 to 13 September 2017. We therefore considered that the promotion did not offer a reduction of “half price plus an extra 20% off” against the usual selling price.
Because we considered that the savings claims would be understood to be a genuine temporary saving against the usual selling price for the product and that was not the case, we concluded that the savings claim had not been substantiated and was likely to mislead consumers.
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), 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) 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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Wren Kitchens Ltd to ensure that in future they made clear when they were offering a multi-buy discount and did not mislead consumers by implying that savings were against the usual selling price of their kitchens where that was not the case. We also told Wren Kitchens Ltd to ensure that they presented all material information in their marketing communications including any significant limitations or qualifications to promotions.