Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Parsley Box Ltd, Virgin Wine Online Ltd
Where: United Kingdom
Law stated as at: 14 November 2019
During the run-up to the winter season’s Black Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day sales, advertisers often launch promotions that can fall foul of the UK’s advertising regulations. We look back at some relevant ASA rulings and top tips to bear in mind during this celebratory season.
Missing out on the festivities?
The ASA advises that promotions should be administered fairly and advertisers should not use time-limited promotions in a way that is likely to mislead consumers. The ASA held that a promotion by Virgin Wines was misleading on the basis that a £10 voucher promotion, which was stated to end on 7 April, was extended. The advertiser argued they were different promotions (that is one ended on the 7 April but a similar promotion was launched on 7 April) as they had different redemption mechanics, but the ASA disagreed with this assessment.
The ASA reiterated that promotions should not be extended unless there are unavoidable circumstances which made it necessary to do so. Advertisers should not, therefore, extend the closing date of a promotion by continuing to offer the same discount under the same terms, even if through a different redemption mechanic.
Running out of presents?
Advertisers should ensure they make a reasonable estimate of the expected demand for their seasonal promotions by, for example, assessing the response to a previous promotion for similar products. Consumers should also be provided, on an upfront basis, important information on the availability. The ASA has made clear that simply stating “subject to availability” on ads does not in itself relieve the advertiser of their obligations to avoid disappointing customers, and, in instances of very limited availability, this should be very clearly signposted. In the event that demand outstrips the stock, advertisers are still expected to communicate promptly with consumers and, in the case of detriment, offer a refund or reasonable substitute.
What’s for Christmas dinner?
Promoters should ensure that ads are accurate and do not create a misleading impression either by text or by graphical representation. A press ad for Parsley Box, a deliverer of ready meals, showed a photograph of a cottage pie in a dish on a plate with some vegetables beside it. Smaller photographs showed chilli con carne with rice, and coq au vin with potatoes (amongst others). Two complainants queried whether the ad was misleading because the product did not come with rice or potatoes.
The ASA upheld the complaints on the basis that consumers were unlikely to view the rice or potatoes as garnish only, given they formed a substantial part of the plate (and meal). The ASA felt the ad gave a misleading impression of the meals consumers would receive.
Why this matters:
When advertisers use promotions to boost brands and sales during the winter festivities, advertisers will need to take care to ensure their ads are compliant with the CAP Code.