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ASA: misleading “was” price claim: Victoria Plum

Published on 09 August 2018

When will a “was” price in a savings claim be considered misleading?

The background

An ad seen on 24 November 2017 for a “Mode Ellis freestanding bath” featured text which scored through the price of £1,299 and showed a “now” price of £379.  A voiceover on the ad also stated  “...  and now at victoriaplum.com you can save up to 70% off, including this contemporary Ellis bath, only £379”.  The advert was seen both on TV and Victoria Plum’s YouTube page.

Victorian Plumbing challenged whether the savings claim was misleading and could be substantiated as they believed the product was never sold at £1,299. 

In response, Victoria Plum provided sales data for a three-month period (including the sales period), which they believed demonstrated the bath was sold at £1,299 and the saving was therefore not misleading.  Clearcast (a non-governmental agency which pre-approves most British television advertising) stated Victoria Plum had confirmed to them that the product was sold at £1,299 and that such confirmation demonstrated the discount was genuine and that the product had been sold at that higher price in significant quantities previously. 

The development

Victorian Plumbing’s challenge was upheld. 

The ASA considered the claim “was £1,299, now £379” would lead consumers to believe they were receiving a genuine saving against the price the product was usually sold.  The price history given to the ASA by Victoria Plum showed the price of the bath fluctuated in the period leading up to the sales event.  The product was sold:

a. initially at £899 for 35 days;

b. at £949 for a further 10 days;

c. at £999 for 12 days; and

  d. at £1,299 on 26 October 2017.

The “was” price of £1,299 in the savings claim had been in place for 27 days before the “now” price of £379.  However, the lower prices in (a) to (c) above were in place for a total period of 57 days, representing a significantly longer period. 

The ASA considered that as the price had fluctuated between four different prices before the sales event, including for the longest period of 35 days at £899, it had not been demonstrated that the higher price of £1,299 was the usual selling price of the bath.  As there was no evidence that the savings claim represented a genuine saving against the usual selling price of the product, the savings claim was found to be misleading. 

Why is this important?

The ASA’s ruling here highlights its pragmatic approach to considering savings claims. The "was” price was in place from 26 October 2017 to when the advert was seen on 24 November 2017, but previous lower prices had been in place for a longer period.  As such, the ASA believed it had not been demonstrated that the £1,299 price was the usual selling price of the product. Therefore, even when it could be demonstrated that a “was” price had been used for a significant period before a sales event, the ASA may find a claim misleading if a lower price had been used for a longer period. 

Any practical tips?

Avoid using “was” prices where lower prices have been used for a longer period than the “was” price has been in force.  If a lower price has been used for a longer period, the ASA is likely to find that the claimed “now” price does not represent a genuine saving against the usual selling price of the product.

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