Topic: Promotion marketing
Who: Debenhams Retail plc (“Debenhams”), the Daily Mail and the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”)
When: 20 February 2013
Law stated as at: 7 March 2013
In November 2012, Debenhams provided discount vouchers to Daily Mail readers and sent an email to consumers promoting the vouchers. The email stated “In association with the Daily Mail. Collect your £5* and £10* voucher from the Daily Mail and also receive 20% OFF at Debenhams.com” and further detailed “*Daily Mail offer: 1. To qualify for the discount, readers must redeem 1 voucher from the Daily Mail between from [sic] Monday 5th November and Saturday 10th November 2012″.
Contrary to what was stated in the email, vouchers were not provided with the Daily Mail on Thursday 8 November. An individual purchased a copy of the Daily Mail on that day and so did not receive a voucher. The individual complained to the ASA and challenged whether the email from Debenhams was misleading.
Debenhams explained that the Daily Mail had pulled their voucher space on Thursday 8 November due to an editorial decision. They had attempted to remedy the situation by placing the promotion code for the offer on the Daily Mail’s website and explained to the ASA that this was the first occasion that a voucher had not been included
in the newspaper over the years during which Debenhams had run promotions with the Daily Mail.
Nevertheless, the ASA noted that: (i) individuals wishing to obtain a voucher would not realise it was missing from the paper until they had purchased it; and (ii) most consumers might not be aware that the offer code was made available on the Daily Mail website. The ASA considered that Debenhams had breached several rules of the Code of Advertising Practice including in respect of misleading advertising and the requirement to disclose significant conditions for promotions.
Why this matters:
Promoters must be careful to take adequate steps to ensure their promotions are advertised and run fairly. This case shows that even where a third party is responsible for carrying out the promotion as planned and the promoter takes steps to rectify the situation, this will not absolve the promoter of responsibility.
In particular, Debenhams had explained to the ASA that when running such promotions, they usually stated that their ability to publish vouchers in third party newspapers was subject to editorial control but the ASA considered that such statement would not be likely to eliminate Debenhams’ responsibility where vouchers were not in fact printed in the newspaper. The ASA noted that under the CAP Code””Promoters are responsible for all aspects and stages of their promotions”, and considered that if such a qualification had appeared in the e-mail it would not counter the fact that a number of consumers could purchase a paper hoping to obtain a voucher and would fail to do so”. So how can promoters take steps to reduce their liability if newspapers fail to print their vouchers?
Another take home point from this case is that promoters in a similar position should make sure consumers are aware that they can obtain voucher codes online even if the vouchers are not printed in the relevant newspaper. In the present adjudication, the ASA “welcomed Debenhams’s assurance” that they would do so in future.