If you list products as priced ‘from £X’ do all of the products mentioned have to be for sale at that price? For Ofcom’s perhaps over-restrictive answer in the context of DVDs and CDs.
Who: Lipsync Limited/Play.com and Ofcom
When: August 2004
Ofcom adjudicated on a complaint by a viewer over a 'prices from' claim in a TV ad for DVDs, computer games and CDs.
The voiceover said
"We've got great movies from £4.99 each like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Ocean's 11 and Identity… and get top CDs from £4.99 including Justin Timberlake's Justified and Resist by Kosheen".
The complaint was that the advertisement was misleading because the viewer had expected the Harry Potter DVD to be £4.99, whereas the price turned out to be £8.99.
In its reply, the ad agency responsible said there was a representative product in each category being sold at the price quoted. For instance the Ocean's 11 DVD was available at £4.99 and the Kosheen CD was also available for that price. The agency said that because the ad referred to prices as being "from" a particular point, it did not believe it was claiming that all the products featured were being sold at that particular price. The Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre had also taken that view when giving the ad clearance for broadcast.
In its decision, Ofcom accepted that where prices were quoted as 'from £X…' this was generally acknowledged to be only a starting point. The references, however, were in this context usually generic, for example 'CDs from £x…'. with no particular CD then mentioned
In this case, the ad drew a direct link between the price quoted and the items referred to immediately afterwards. By saying 'movies from £4.99 each like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' and 'CDs from £4.99 including Justin Timberlake's Justified' the ad clearly created a reasonable expectation in the minds of viewers that they could buy those particular items at those prices.
In these circumstances the ad was misleading in its current state and breached the accurate pricing Code Rule 5.3.1 and the misleading advertising Code Rule 5.1 and it was not to be shown again in that form.
Why this matters:
Clearly, indicating that prices start from a particular point makes it explicit that there will be higher prices. Where this advertisement went over the line was in drawing a direct link between the 'from' price claimed and a particular product as opposed to a product category. What is not clear is whether play.com would have been OK if the first DVD or CD mentioned after the "From £4.99" had in fact been available at that price, with the higher priced ones mentioned second or third.