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ASA action

Supermarket shelves Print publication

10/09/2018

Recent action taken by the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Advertising Standards Authority in two key areas are likely to have a significant impact on retailers. Gwendoline Davies and Richard Naish explain.

Price promotion

In November 2017 a well-known supermarket ran a price promotion for Haagen-Dazs ice cream. The text of the promotion on their website stated “Only £3.00: Save £1.00”. The advertisement was challenged on the basis that it was misleading because the reduction didn’t represent a genuine saving.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld the complaint. The ASA looked at the pricing history for the product and found that the price of the ice cream had fluctuated between a ‘base price’ of £4.00 and a ‘promo price’ of £3.00 every 21 days. Because the difference in price followed a cyclical pattern, the lower promotion price couldn’t be said to be a genuine saving against a usual selling price. Therefore the savings claim was deemed to be misleading and the supermarket was ordered to ensure that any future savings claims did not misleadingly imply savings against the usual selling price of the product.

This finding will have a big impact on food retail pricing practices. It is common practice for the major supermarkets to run promotions on a regular basis. It could be said that many food products do not have a usual selling price so claims of savings are now looking at risk of challenge.

Delivery charges

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has published a new enforcement notice on advertised delivery restrictions and surcharges which applies to all adverts across the UK, including advertisements on websites and on social media.  The notice is designed to prevent misleading claims as to delivery charges – in particular claims such as “Free UK Delivery” where, for example, surcharges or restrictions may apply in certain parts of England, Scotland (including the Scottish Highlands), Wales and Northern Ireland.

The ASA has advised that sellers should not make absolute delivery claims which are incorrect; they should ensure that there are no contradictions of the main delivery claim; and, if any surcharges or restrictions are applicable, these must be “clear and upfront” within the advert.

Retailers who supply goods by post should review how their delivery arrangements and charges are advertised. The ASA has stated that enforcement action will be taken for non-compliance as from 31 May 2018.

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