ASA rules on price comparisons – Samuel Windsor

Published on 07 November 2019

Can a retailer compare its prices to “typical high street prices”? Does it help if you explain the basis of those "typical" prices?

The key takeaway

Beware using broad phrases to make price comparisons.  In this case, the ASA took "typical high street prices" to mean a comparison with all items of a similar design on the whole high street – not an easy claim to substantiate!

The ad

Samuel Windsor, a menswear brand, published a brochure in September 2018 relating to its end of season sale. The cover stated “END OF SEASON SALE SAVE UP TO 70%”. The brochure included several different products that were discounted against the “typical high street price”. 

Examples of listings include:

The bottom of the page stated that the prices were compared against a calculated average high street price for each product.

The complaint

The complaint alleged that the comparison made between the prices of the advertiser and the “typical high street” was misleading and could not be substantiated.

The response

Samuel Windsor challenged the complaint and stated that the brochure included a qualification explaining the basis for the comparison on every alternate page. Their evidence showed that the shirt in the complaint was compared to two other shirts from four retailers that they considered to be similar quality, specification and design and therefore were representative of high street pricing. Their evidence also showed that the shirts were made similarly and using the same manufacturing methods, location and were designed in a similar way. Similar evidence was given for the shoes as well. The company did, however, admit that the brochure’s cover claim of “END OF SEASON SALE SAVE UP TO 70%” was an oversight and their future covers would comply with the CAP Code. 

The decision

The ASA upheld the complaint. 

It noted that the cover page implied that the 70% savings were against Samuel Windsor’s usual prices for the products, whereas the rest of the brochure was intended to be a comparison with the prices of other retailers. The ASA considered that, while the comparison was explained elsewhere in the brochure, consumers who would see the claim on the cover page would be misled by it. 

In terms of the promotion for the shoes, the ASA said that, although the ad did state that the typical high street price was calculated by comparing products of similar quality in a footnote at the bottom of the page, the overall presentation of the ad was likely to be seen as a comparison against identical products. Due to this, consumers were likely to be misled by the ad. Since the comparison did not constitute a full comparison against the whole high street, including all items of a similar design, the evidence did not sufficiently demonstrate that the price claim for the average high street price was what was presented. The ASA considered that the same also applied to the shirts, which failed to demonstrate, through evidence, that the price presented was an accurate representation of the average high street price.

Why is this important?

The ruling highlights the difficulties of finding alternative methods for showing price savings compared to the competition, particular where the comparison is not with the whole high street.

Practical tips

Ensure that the basis of your price comparisons is clear. Advertisers should be careful when making comparisons to other retailers’ prices in very broad terms, such as “typical high street price”, without immediately and properly clarifying how the comparison has been made.  The ASA suggests that this type of phrase requires a full comparison against the whole high street, including all items of a similar design, together with full substantiation evidence. 

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