Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and We Fit Any Furniture Ltd (We Fit Any Furniture)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 30 December 2022
Law stated as at: 6 July 2023
A complaint was lodged against We Fit Any Furniture for the ad on their website My Fitted Bedroom, claiming a half-price multi-buy promotion. The ad contained the following text:
“HALF PRICE multi-buy CELEBRATIONS … We can offer a half price saving with our multi-buy promotion. Buy 5 or more units and the economies of scale in our manufacturing process means we can offer you the best value and price“; and
“50% off multi-buy offer available when you buy 5 or more units…”.
We Fit Any Furniture’s ad was challenged on the basis whether the savings claims were misleading. The complainant understood that the offer had been available for a number of months.
We Fit Any Furniture argued that the multi-buy promotion applied to all product ranges and had no intended or displayed end date. They argued that they did not intend to imply any time limitation on the offer, providing the ASA with sales data from the past year to support the claim of genuine savings for consumers.
As there was an absence of any text stating that the offer was ongoing, and did not have an end date, the ASA considered that consumers were likely to assume that the offer was a time-limited sale. They considered that consumers were likely to understand from the ad that they would be able to make a genuine saving against the usual selling price for five or more individual bedroom units.
The ASA referred to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s (CTSI) Guidance “Traders on Pricing Practices”, which offers practical advice to traders on consumer protection laws and associated practices. This states that “If your proposed pricing practice explicitly or by implication indicates a saving against another price you must be able to satisfy yourself that the quoted saving is genuine and is therefore not unfair“. The guidance also advises that the practice was less likely to comply if a retailer could not provide evidence to show that significant sales were made at the higher price, when compared to the promotional price.
We Fit Any Furniture had not provided the ASA with a full pricing history for all eligible products, including the details of the number of sales made at the “half price” price, and the number of sales made at the regular, full price. The ASA were therefore unable to determine whether significant sales had been made at the higher price.
They also considered that multi-buy offers were typically made in circumstances where the offer incentivised consumers to buy more than they otherwise would, in order to obtain a lower cost per item, and achieve better overall value. It was not clear there would be an incentive for consumers to purchase more units in this case because they were likely to have a set number of units in mind when planning a bedroom. The incentive to purchase more units, therefore, would be inherently impacted by other factors, such as the wider bedroom design, and space.
Because the ad was likely to be interpreted as offering a discount against the usual price of five units or more, which was not the case, it was likely to mislead. The ASA concluded that the savings claims were misleading.
The ASA concluded that We Fit Any Furniture’s savings claims were misleading, contravening the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) rules on misleading advertising (3.1), substantiation (3.7), and prices (3.17).
Why this matters:
This ruling reminds retailers of the importance of including an end date on promotions, including the fact that keeping records of prices. Price promotions and discounts are consistently a focus for the ASA and compliance is likely to become more important if the sanctions in the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill come to fruition.