ASA ruling on sales and introductory offers - Furniture Village

Published on 07 November 2019

Can advertisers make reference to both a “Sale” and an “Introductory Offer” in respect of the same promotion?

The key takeaway

Advertisers must take care not to cause confusion in respect of the basis of a savings claim by making reference to both a “Sale” and an “Introductory Offer” for the same promotion. Critically, they should provide consumers with significant information such as closing dates to prevent them rushing to take advantage of an offer. Beware also of using the abbreviation "ASP" for after sales prices – the ASA says this isn’t clear enough for consumers.

The background

Furniture Village offered an in-store “Early Bird” promotion on a divan bed set which included a mattress, base and two free drawers. The promotion prominently featured the word “Sale” at the top followed by “ASP £1099 – Introductory offer £549” with small text confirming that “ASP = After Sale Price”. Notably, the promotion did not specify an offer end date for the divan set but offers on other products in close proximity had an end date of 20 January 2019. Ultimately, the price of the divan bed set actually fell to £499 after 20 January 2019. The complainant, who had rushed to purchase the bed set before the perceived deadline, challenged whether the promotion was fair. In response, Furniture Village explained that the “Early Bird” “Introductory Offer” could be distinguished as it featured two free drawers which were not part of subsequent offers. 

The decision 

The ASA considered that references in the ad to both a “Sale” and an “Introductory Offer” in respect of the same promotion meant that the basis of the savings claim was not clear to consumers. Consumers would understand “Sale” to represent a saving against a genuine, established, usual selling price and would understand “Introductory Offer” to refer to an introductory price that was lower than the intended standard price. The ASA noted that although the Code does allow for the use of introductory offers it must be clear that the lower price was an introductory price rather than a discount against the usual selling price and the ASA did not consider that the use of the abbreviation ASP to signify “After Sale Price” made this sufficiently clear as consumers would not necessarily be familiar with the abbreviation. 

The ASA also considered that, given that the £549 offer price was significantly lower than the £1,099 usual/intended standard price and that ads on other products in the vicinity displayed looming closing dates, the absence of a closing date for the divan bed set would suggest that consumers needed to act quickly to take advantage of that offer. The fact that the offer would in fact continue until 12 February 2019 was significant information that was likely to influence a consumer’s decision to take up the offer. 

On this basis, the ASA upheld the complaint finding that the ad breached CAP Code rules on misleading advertising (3.1 and 3.3), availability (3.31) and promotional marketing (8.17).

Why is this important?

This decision helps remind advertisers that they must make the basis of savings claims clear, in particular by not confusing references to both a “Sale” and an “Introductory Offer” in the same promotional material. 

Any practical tips?

Three tips:

  • don’t use a reference to both a “Sale” and an “Introductory Offer” in the same promotional material;
  • take care with the layout of different offers with different closing dates. You have to be very clear as to what is going on with each one;
  • avoid using the abbreviation "ASP" for 'After Sales Price'. Use the full phrase instead.

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