The Advertising Standards Authority recently challenged the fairness of the “Aldi challenge” as a recent Aldi campaign compared the prices of Aldi own-brand products against products sold by competitor supermarkets but did they provide consumers with sufficient information as to the products compared? Manana Shrimpling points out why the basket comparison was misleading.
Who: Advertising Standards Authority and Aldi
When: 13 July 2011
Law as stated at: 29 July 2011
The Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA") upheld a complaint about an Aldi supermarket advert which compared the prices of premium brand products from other supermarkets with Aldi's own-brand products. The ASA held that the price comparison was unfair and that the advert did not adequately identify the competitors or the competitor prices.
An email advertisement for Aldi supermarket entitled "Try the Aldi challenge today" showed 13 premium brand products next to 13 equivalent Aldi products. The text under the premium brand products read "Other supermarkets £13.90", while the text under the Aldi products read "Your Aldi store ONLY £7.53". An image of a sale receipt underneath showed individual price information for each of the 13 products. The following text was included in the small-print: "Based on a selection of branded products checked on mysupermarket.com…The cheapest competitive price pro rata has been used for 'other supermarket' using the top three retailers. This does not include offers or multibuys…'".
The ASA held that the price comparison breached CAP Code rule 3.39 (price comparisons) which states that "…comparisons with a competitor price must be with the price for an identical or substantially equivalent product…If the competitor offers more than one similar product, marketers should compare their price with the price for the competitor's product that is most similar to the advertised product". Although the ASA noted that Aldi did not sell the premium brand products in question, it stated that since the other supermarkets did sell their own own-brand products it would have been more appropriate and fairer to compare Aldi's own-brand products with the other supermarkets' own-brand products. The price comparison was therefore unfair. It did not matter that the products compared may have been of similar quality.
The ASA also considered that the advert breached CAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.3 on misleading advertising, and rules 3.38 and 3.39 on comparisons, by being misleading for not identifying who the top three retailers were against whom the comparisons were made and not specifying which of the 13 products were purchased from which retailer or stating the competitor price for them. Aldi had also compared different pack sizes for 4 of the 13 products using pro-rated prices, which the ASA considered to be misleading as it was likely to skew results.
Why this matters:
This adjudication highlights the importance of comparing like for like products in price comparison adverts. Advertisers must provide clear information on the prices of competitors' products and ensure that, if a basket is made up of products from more than one competitor, those competitors are clearly identified and the products are matched to the different retailers. Individual price information should also be included for each item compared.