Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and two leading UK supermarkets
Where: United Kingdom
When: 13 July 2022
Law stated as at: 8 August 2022
A leading UK supermarket recently found itself in hot water with the ASA following claims made about prices in its 2021 Black Friday sale.
The supermarket created advertising leaflets to be inserted into a national newspaper in November last year. The leaflet featured a number of recommended retail price (RRP) claims, including: a “Sharp 42” Full HD Android TV” with a price of £259 and an RRP of £409.99; and an “ASUS 11.6” Chromebook Flip” with a price of £149.99 and an RRP of £399.99.
A rival retailer believed that the quoted RRPs were significantly different to those at which the items were generally sold, so it challenged whether these RRP claims could be substantiated by the supermarket and whether they were misleading.
The supermarket responded to this challenge by saying that the prices in the leaflets were the prices at which the products were generally sold. It believed that consumers would understand the meaning of RRP and the shopping chain explained that RRP was used to avoid the suggestion that the products had previously been sold by it at the higher price.
The supermarket’s buying team validated the prices prior to publishing the leaflet. It provided screenshots from the websites of the manufacturers and other retailers (like Argos and Currys) showing prices for the products around the time the leaflet ad appeared. The Supermarket acknowledged that there was an error with the RRP for the ASUS laptop and apologised for this error – it was shown as £399.99 rather than £339.
In its assessment, the ASA considered that consumers would understand that the RRP claims in the ads would be the price recommended by the manufacturer and the price at which retailers generally sold the products. With regards to the ASUS laptop, it was considered that the RRPs set by the manufacturer did not constitute evidence that this was the price the product was generally sold. A similar conclusion was made in relation to the Sharp TV, with the ASA assessing that screenshots of the RRP on one retailer’s website and the manufacturer’s website were insufficient in demonstrating that the products were generally sold at the RRPs claimed in the ads.
The regulator concluded that the RRP and savings claims for these products could not be substantiated and were therefore misleading. The ASA noted that the ad must not appear again in its current form.
Why this matters:
Advertisers must ensure that references to RRPs reflect the price at which products are generally sold. This decision reiterates the need for advertisers to hold adequate evidence to substantiate their claims on savings. If advertisers cannot provide suitable sales evidence which shows the usual selling price of the product, they shouldn’t be surprised if the ASA comes calling.