TV ad offers for two homeware retailers were not all they were cracked up to be, as the ITC concluded in recent cases where the advertisers ought to have known better.
Who: Floors-2-Go and MFI Autumn Sale
Where: The ITC
When: October/November 2003
Two TV advertisers were hauled up before the ITC over price claims in advertising.
An advertisement for MFI claimed "All sale prices are VAT free". Smaller text at the bottom of the advertisement read "higher prices on selected items offered 10-23/7. Minimum spend applies".
The complainant had followed up on the ad, but been denied a reduction because they had not met the "minimum spend" requirement. The complaint was not in the event upheld because the minimum spend requirement did actually feature in the advertisement. However, the ITC still judged that the advertising was misleading. This was because the text contradicted the claim that the "VAT-free" reduction applied to "All sale prices," by applying only if a minimum of £250 was being spent.
In the Floors–2-Go case, the advertisement showed a range of laminate and hard wood floor coverings starting from £2.98 per square metre. A voiceover claimed "and that's all you pay because the underlay is completely free".
The complaining viewer understood from the ad that the underlay-inclusive price quoted applied to the complete range of floor coverings available from Floors-2-Go. In fact, the offer was limited to just the laminate flooring costing £2.98 per square metre.
The BACC, in the course of its pre-vetting of the commercial, had taken the view that the ad was not misleading. This was because of the £2.98 per square metre price was quoted immediately before the assertion that underlay was completely free. The ITC judged, however, that in the absence of a clear indication in the advertising to the contrary, it was not unreasonable for viewers to assume that the £2.98 per square metre including underlay offer applied to all Floors-2-Go floors. The advertisement was therefore misleading and the complaint was upheld.
Why this matters:
The MFI case is just another example of the application of the well established rule: "Text can be used to qualify an offer but cannot be used to correct an otherwise misleading advertisement."
In the Floors-2-Go case, the importance is underlined making absolutely clear if there are significant limitations on any particular offer being promoted.