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ASA rules Wickes and Better Bathrooms sale ads are misleading

Published: 5 October 2017 - Fiona Garcia
 
 

The Advertising Sales Authority (ASA) has upheld challenges against both Wickes and Better Bathrooms, which claim adverts for their respective kitchen and bathroom sales misled consumers, ruling that the ads and promotional material must not appear again in their current form.

Home improvement retailer Wickes was pulled up about an advert on its website www.wickes.co.uk on May 9 this year, which offered 50% off kitchen units. According to the ASA, the complainant in the case challenged whether the savings claim was misleading and could be substantiated.

In its defence, Wickes stated that the dates of the sale and the period over which the higher prices were available were clearly set out on the same web page on which the ad appeared. The retailer added that it believed a longer sale period was reasonable “based on the length of the customer journey when making such a significant purchase as a kitchen, because it allowed an informed, unhurried decision to be made”.

It added that other retailers in the industry adopted similarly longer sale periods in relation to kitchens.

However, the ASA upheld the challenge because it felt that consumers were likely to understand ‘50% off kitchen units’ to represent a “genuine saving against the usual selling price for the units at the time the ad appeared”.

It added that the 61-day promotional period was materially longer than the non-promotional period that preceded it. Therefore, the ad was deemed misleading.

Meanwhile, the Better Bathrooms ruling related to four email ads, two website ads and two TV commercials. The complainant in this instance was rival bathroom firm Victoria Plum, which challenged the claim ‘Up to 70% off’ in the ads, saying it was misleading  because it understood that only a few products were discounted by that amount. It also complained that the claim ‘Sale must end on the 31st of January’ featured on a banner on Better Bathroom’s website and in a TV ad was misleading, because the sale was extended into February 2017. 

Victoria Plumb challenged claims in several Better Bathrooms adverts, including banners appearing in its website promoting its
Victoria Plumb challenged claims in several Better Bathrooms adverts, including banners appearing in its website promoting its '70% off' sale (note: this does not refer to the the sale pictured)

Better Bathrooms said more than 10% of the range included in the sale was discounted by up to 70%, which it felt met with requirements and that the sale was extended as a last-minute decision on February 1, due to a higher-than-expected demand during January

The ASA upheld Victoria Plum’s challenge, citing a number of reasons for this decision but, ultimately, concluded that substantiation provided by Better Bathrooms “did not show that a significant proportion of sale items were discounted by 70%, that all products sold by Better Bathrooms were on sale as stated in one of the adverts, or that the claim “up to 70% off” represented the true overall picture of the sale”, adding “we concluded the ads were misleading and in breach of the Codes”.

Lastly, the ASA asserted that the CAP Code states that closing dates must not be changed unless unavoidable circumstances beyond the control of the promoter made it necessary. It noted that Better Bathrooms had not featured the end date in its ads until the last 10 days of the sale and believes that consumers who saw the ads “may have hurried into participating in the promotion believing that it was only running for a short time longer when they could have delayed taking part until a more convenient time, and may have been disadvantaged as a result.”

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