An online sales promotion and a TV ad for Orange’s long running and successful “2 for 1″ cinema tickets promotion invited punters to text in for their second, “text ticket”, which would cost 35p. “Hang on” a complainer to the ASA said, “if the second ticket costs an extra 35p, how can it be “2 for 1″”? Omar Bucchioni reports the outcome of the case.
Who: ASA and Orange Personal Communications Services Ltd t/a Orange
Where: United Kingdom
When: 21 October 2009
Law stated as at: 31 October 2009
Recently the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated an online sales promotion and a TV ad complaints in respect of the Orange Wednesday “2 for 1″ cinema tickets.
a) The online sales promotion on the Orange website stated “2 for 1 cinema tickets every Wednesday,” and ” … we offer all our Orange customers 2 for 1 cinema tickets. Check out how it works below.” Further text stated ” … Text ‘FILM’ to 241 and we’ll send you your ticket, pronto. Tickets cost 35p …”.
b) The TV ad featured a character dressed as a witch saying ” … Wednesdays were the worst. Who was I gonna invite to the movies for a 2 for 1 offer? …” The voice-over then stated “2 for 1 cinema tickets. Any customer, any mate, any Wednesday.” On-screen text stated “Text ticket costs up to 35p. Participating cinemas only. Terms apply, see orange.co.uk/Wednesdays … text FILM to 241″.
The complainant objected that the reference to ‘2 for 1′ was misleading because there was a 35p charge for the ‘text ticket’ Orange sent out, and therefore the cost of claiming two tickets was greater than the price of buying one ticket (i.e. ticket price + 35p!)
Orange response to the ASA
Orange Personal Communications Services Ltd (Orange) commented that the promotion had been run for a number of years without a complaint. The ads specifically made clear the material conditions to the promotion and stated the price of the tickets.
According to Orange, consumers were unlikely to expect that there were no unavoidable costs to responding in excess of the price of one ticket.
Clearcast response to the ASA
Clearcast pointed out that there were two elements that consumers need to follow in order to take up the Orange’s “2 for 1″ offer:
- to text ‘2 for 1′ to Orange to obtain a unique code; and then
- to present that code to the cinema where two cinema tickets could then be purchased for the price of one.
The only cost to the consumer was a 35p text message which a) was not charged at premium rates and b) was not in addition to normal operator text charges.
Clearcast took the view that it was entirely reasonable for Orange to charge for the sending out of the unique code. They considered the Orange “2 for 1″ claim in to be in conformity with the ASA guidelines on the use of the word ‘free’ because they noted the similarities between this claim and a general ‘buy one get one free’ offer.
The ASA verdict
The CAP Code – Rule 32.5(a) states:
“Consumers’ liability for costs should be made clear in all material featuring “free” offers. An offer should be described as free only if consumers pay no more than:
the minimum, unavoidable cost of responding to the promotion, eg the current public rates of postage, the cost of telephoning up to and including the national rate or the minimum, unavoidable cost of sending an e-mail or SMS text message”
The BCAP Code – Rule 2 – 20.1 states
Advertisements must not describe products or samples as ‘free’, or similar, unless they are supplied at no cost or no extra cost (other than postage or carriage) to the recipient.
In the circumstances the ASA considered that the ads made clear the 35p cost of obtaining the unique code and that charge was not unreasonable. Therefore they concluded that the ads were not misleading and took no further actions.
Why this matters:
Quite sensibly the ASA decided not to uphold this “on the edge” case. A good move made by Clearcast was to take existing ASA guidelines on the use of the word free to explain that the 35p charge was reasonable. Could this approach be applied to all the “2 for 1″ offers and be extended to the true cost of freight or delivery and to the cost, including incidental expenses, of any travel involved if consumers collect the offer?
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