A TV ad for Ziffit.com, an online selling service, seen on 8 February 2019 opened with an animation of a man and woman surrounded by books. The voice-over stated, “How can you quickly turn books into money? Ziffit.com pays for all kinds of books as well as CDs, DVDs and games, simply use our app to zap the barcodes or enter them at Ziffit.com. Because we understand the value of books we’ll instantly offer you a great price.” At the same time, the woman scanned one book and the price of £3.67 appeared on the phone screen. She scanned three more books and a total of £13.01 appeared on the phone screen. Later, a message appeared on the phone which stated “£40.97 Payment received from Ziffit.com”.
The complainant, who used the app but was given considerably lower values for their items, challenged whether the ad exaggerated the amount that could be obtained from the service.
Ziffit Ltd t/a Ziffit.com said that the ad was centred on customers sending them their books with the voice-over specifically referencing them throughout, along with other products they accepted. They said the price of £13.01 was achievable when scanning four books into the system and the ad showed the books as anonymous, therefore it covered all types of books, not just high profile fiction but also textbooks, law books, medical books, etc.
Ziffit.com provided screenshots of items which were scanned at the time the ad was developed along with examples of current titles that would achieve the values shown in the ad, which included a number of well-known authors and titles. They said that pricing was dynamically updated based on their stocks, customer demand and market prices. As such, valuations would vary because the volumes of titles within the market at a given time, as well as the volume of stock they already held would have to be taken into account. As a result, very popular titles might be lower in value due to a lack of demand.
Ziffiit.com said their terms and conditions stated, “Our pricing is dynamically updated based on our stocks of items and market prices and so you may get different valuations for the same item on our app and our website. Saved baskets of items are only valid for 30 days, and will be removed after this period. The payment we make is based on the value offered at the time of order”.
Clearcast said they received satisfactory evidence to support the prices shown in the ad. The voice-over stated, “[W]e understand the value of books” and the visuals showed an animation of a couple surrounded by hundreds of blank generic books, which they intended to sell on the app, so Clearcast felt the main focus of the ad was selling books on the app. The books were unrecognisable and generic so when coupled with the values shown on the phone screen, they believed consumers could not be misled into associating a particular book with a specific value because the prices were not fixed but could change over time. They said the evidence they received during the pre-clearance process demonstrated that customers could easily achieve the value of £3.67 for one item or £13.01 for four items sold through the app. They were satisfied that if a customer wanted to sell a large quantity of items, they could easily achieve the total figure of £40.97 as depicted in the ad.
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand that the sums shown in the ad, while being examples not applicable to every book, would be representative of what it was possible to achieve when selling items through the app.
We noted the voice-over stated, “How can you quickly turn books into money? Ziffit.com pays for all kinds of books as well as CDs DVDs and games” and “Because we understand the value of books, we’ll instantly offer you a great price”. We considered that meant the prices offered for the items would not reflect their market value and that various genres of books could be sold, and some would have been published some time ago, as well as more recently, so valuations would vary. We also noted that because no actual titles or authors were shown in the ad, it would not be expected that a particular book would achieve a certain price.
We were provided with three basket summaries which showed various books and the prices that had been offered for each book. There were no CDs, DVDs or games on the basket summaries, but we considered that books featured prominently throughout the ad and that the price claims in the ad related to the price they would pay for books in particular. On one basket summary there were 12 books with 11 having prices ranging from £3.02 to £4.69 and the total matched that shown in the ad. The second basket summary featured seven books with prices ranging from £1.95 to £6.75. We noted that one book that was priced at £0.30 on the first basket summary, was priced at £1.95 on the second. We were not aware of the dates when each basket summary was compiled, but we understood that prices fluctuated depending on several factors, such as consumer demand and volumes of stock. All the prices were within a range which we considered was acceptable to match the price featured in the ad. Although some prices were lower, we considered that they did not undermine the price claim.
While we understood that the complainant received much lower values for their items, we considered that the evidence provided was sufficient to demonstrate that the prices shown in the ad were representative of what consumers could achieve using the app.
We therefore concluded the ad had not exaggerated the values shown and was unlikely 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), 3.12 3.12 Advertisements must not mislead by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product or service. (Exaggeration) and 3.18 3.18 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product or service depicted in the advertisement. (Prices), but did not find it in breach.
No further action needed.