Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, of which one was Not upheld and one was Upheld.
The home page of Wren Kitchens, www.wrenkitchens.com, stated “The UK’s Number 1 Kitchen Retail Specialist”. A linked web page entitled “Why Choose Wren?” stated “The UK's Number 1 Kitchen Retail Specialist*”. Smaller text beneath this stated “*Number 1 Kitchen Retail Specialist refers to Wren Kitchens being the Number 1 (i.e. the largest in terms of retail sales) Specialist Kitchen Retailer (i.e. a retailer that specialises in selling to consumers, not trade purchasers and is not also a general DIY shed or home goods retailer). Sources: Mintel Kitchens and Kitchen Furniture - UK - September 2016 & Nobia Annual Report 2015”.
The complainant challenged whether the claim “The UK’s Number 1 Kitchen Retail Specialist” was:
1. misleading and could be substantiated; and
1. Wren Living Ltd said that the claim “The UK’s Number 1 Kitchen Retail Specialist” should be read in its proper context. The explanation immediately below the claim stated that “Number 1” referred to Wren Living being the largest in terms of retail sales and that “Kitchen Retail Specialist” referred to a retailer that specialised in selling to consumers, not trade purchasers, and was not a general DIY, shed or home goods retailer. They believed that this made the basis of the claim clear to consumers. They said that Wren iving did not sell any products other than kitchens, and only sold those to consumers.
Wren Living provided a report that included sales data for the top eight kitchen suppliers in the UK. Out of these, only Magnet (part of Nobia), exclusively sold kitchens. Wren Living provided a copy of Nobia’s 2015 annual report, which they said demonstrated that Wren Living had higher annual sales than Magnet. They believed that the claim had been substantiated and was not misleading.
2. Wren Living stated that the UK market for kitchen suppliers was very large and while consumers would be aware of some competitors, it was impossible that they would be able to identify all of them. They considered that the comparison in the claim “The UK’s Number 1 Kitchen Retail Specialist” was with non-identifiable competitors and that it was not therefore required to be verifiable by consumers. Nonetheless, they said that in future they would be willing to publish the relevant section of the Mintel report on their website and link to other relevant evidence.
1. Not upheld
The ASA noted that the small text underneath the claim “The UK’s Number 1 Kitchen Retail Specialist” explained that “number 1” referred to the largest in terms of retail sales and “kitchen retail specialist” referred to a retailer that specialised in selling kitchens to consumers, rather than to trade purchasers. We considered that the claim, in conjunction with the qualification, would be understood by consumers to mean that Wren Living had the highest retail sales of any UK retailer that specialised in selling kitchens to consumers – i.e., kitchens were the main product sold and consumers, as opposed to traders, were the sole customer base.
A market intelligence report provided by Wren Living that showed that they were among the eight leading kitchen retailers in the UK in 2015 in terms of overall turnover. Six of the other retailers listed were general DIY chains or suppliers that sold a range of household items and did not specialise in kitchens, and/or specialised in selling to traders. The only other retailer in the top eight that specialised in selling kitchens was Magnet. The 2015 annual report for Nobia, Magnet’s parent company, featured a pie chart entitled “Sales Channels, %”. We considered that, in the context of the report, it was reasonable to conclude that this referred to the percentages of Nobia’s total UK sales made through each type of sales channel – 30% of the chart was labelled “Kitchen specialist Retail”. There was a separate category labelled “Kitchen specialist Trade”. We noted that Magnet also sold to traders through another separately branded arm – Magnet Trade. Because Magnet was the only Nobia brand that sold directly to consumers, we considered that the “Kitchen specialist Retail” category could be understood as representing the percentage of Nobia’s total net sales for 2015 made by Magnet (the consumer sales arm) as opposed to Magnet Trade, and we considered that in the context of the claim that was the relevant comparator. We noted that those sales were lower than Wren Living’s sales for the same period. We therefore considered that the claim “UK’s Number 1 Kitchen Retail Specialist” had been substantiated and was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors), but did not find it in breach.
We noted that the ad referred to “kitchen retail specialists”, and in conjunction with the qualifying text this was likely to be understood as referring to all UK retailers that specialised in selling kitchens to consumers (as discussed in point 1). While consumers might not be able to identify all competitors in this market, it was reasonable to assume that they will be able to identify some of them. We therefore considered that it was a comparison against identifiable competitors.
The CAP Code required that “comparisons with identifiable competitors are verifiable”. We considered this meant that an ad which featured a comparison with an identifiable competitor or competitors needed to include, or direct a consumer to, sufficient information to allow them to understand the comparison, and be able to check the claims were accurate, or ask someone suitably qualified to do so. While the sources on which the comparison was based were listed below the claim, no further information on why they were relevant to supporting it – such as which competitors had been included in the comparison and how their total sales had been calculated – had been provided. Furthermore, one of the sources on which the claim was based was not accessible in the public domain. For those reasons, we did not consider that the ad allowed consumers or competitors to verify the comparison and therefore concluded that the claim breached the Code.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.35 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Wren Living Ltd to ensure that comparisons with identifiable competitors made in their advertising were verifiable.