ASA: "was" prices did not represent genuine savings against usual selling prices - Currys
Can "was" prices be used in ads if the prices claimed were used many months before the promotion?
The ASA received two complaints about two ads for DSG Retail Ltd t/a Currys (Currys). Both complaints related to whether the savings claim in each ad was misleading and could be substantiated.
Ad (a) for a 55" LG OLED TV, seen on 26 November 2017, stated a price of "£1,499.00" in large red text, and "save £1,500.00" in black text beneath this. Smaller grey text in the ad stated "was £2,999 (from 19/04/2017 to 29/06/2017)". Ad (b) for a 65" LG OLED TV, seen on 5 January 2018, stated a price of "£2,499.00" in large red text, and "save £500.00" in black text beneath this. Again, smaller grey text in the ad stated "was £2,999.00 (from 27/09/2017 to 28/09/2017)".
Currys stated that the 55" TV was on sale at the higher "was" price for 72 days, and the 65" TV was on sale at the higher price for 35 days (Currys admitted there was an error in the dates displayed for the 65" TV). Currys also said that the "was" price was representative of the market price at the time they applied and that the "was" price and the dates which applied to that price were clearly presented. Currys also stated that their price promotions contained a specific price advantage which existed and was not misleading. Currys provided price history data for the products.
Both complaints were upheld.
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand that the claims "save £1,500" and "save £500" would represent genuine savings against the usual selling price of the products at the time the adverts appeared. The ASA considered that many consumers were unlikely to notice the smaller grey text in the ads indicating when the products had been available at the higher prices. Even if consumers did see this information, it was insufficient to alter the impression that the claims represented genuine savings against the usual selling prices of the products at the time the ads appeared.
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute Guidance for Traders on Pricing Practices 2016 states that a reference price is less likely to comply with the applicable rules if it “refer[red] to previous selling prices that were charged many months ago and therefore no longer represent[ed] a genuine indication of the current value of the item”. The 55" TV had not been sold for £2,999.00 for a period of 150 days, while the 65" TV had not been sold for £2,999.00 for a period of 99 days. The ASA considered that, for both TVs, this meant that £2,999.00 was not the usual selling price of the product at the time the ads were seen.
As the "was" prices referred to prices which were charged several months before the promotional prices were available, the savings claims in the ads did not represent genuine savings against the usual selling prices of the TVs and therefore the pricing claims were misleading.
Why is this important?
This ASA ruling highlights that any "was" prices used in a price promotion must represent the usual selling price of the product at the time when the ad is seen. The fact that a product was previously sold at the "was" price is not necessarily conclusive evidence that it is the usual selling price. This is particularly true if the "was" price has not been used for a period of several months.
Any practical tips?Be sure to check that any "was" price represents the usual selling price of the product at the time the ad is shown. Even if a price has been previously used, this will not represent the usual price if it was used several months ago. This ruling shows that the ASA is unlikely to give much weight to "was" prices which have not been recently used.