ASA rules “was” pricing claim by Watches of Switzerland as misleading
How long does it take for a lower price claim to become the “usual” selling price for a product? What if the previous higher price ran for three years, and the lower price is in place for ten months? Does this period of time negate the ability to use the higher price as a “was” price comparison?
An ad that included an old price as a “was” price, although used for three years prior, was deemed to be misleading by the ASA. The ruling held that ten months was enough time for the new discounted price to become the usual price for the goods and comparing against the older, higher price would mislead consumers and be in breach of the CAP Code.
Watches of Switzerland (WS), trading as Goldsmiths, sold jewellery and other items on their website www.goldsmiths. co.uk, which included a pair of “Mappin & Webb Fortune White Gold and Diamond Hoop Earrings” priced at £3,375. The price was listed next to an older “was” price of £7,500, which was crossed out.
A complaint was made that the savings claim for the earrings was misleading, as the purchaser had never seen them being sold at the old, higher price.
WS argued that the older retail price had fluctuated over the years due to the price of gold and diamonds, having first been advertised in 2013. The price of £7,500 was advertised during the period of November 2016 to December 2019. This had been the retail price for the three years prior to the earrings being bought by the complainant at the discounted price. They said that they followed the relevant pricing guidance and ensured that the full price had been advertised for a longer period than the discounted price, and the period during which the discounted price was offered was shorter than the period that the product was offered at the full price.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand from the ad that the usual price for the goods was £7,500 and that the advertised reduced price of £3,375 was the genuine level of savings they would achieve at that time. It considered that the ten months the earrings were advertised at the lower price was enough for it to establish that price as their usual selling price. Because of this, consumers would understand the higher price to still be
the usual price for the earrings and the savings claim would be misleading. The ASA therefore upheld the complaint and deemed WS had breached rules 3.1 and 3.17 of the CAP Code.
Why is this important?
The decision showcases that the ASA will enforce its rules against any price listings that are not genuine representations of the actual price of the goods at the time of the ad. This includes any old data that is used as a comparative tool to show any potential savings against a reduced price, particularly for any goods where the price fluctuates because of raw materials.
Any practical tips?
Beware sticking to the maxim that you can run a price comparison if the full price has been advertised for a longer period than the discounted price. Here the period during which the discounted price was offered was shorter than the period that the product was offered at the full price. However, ten months is a long time and it was enough for the lower price to be established as the “usual” selling price – thereby making the use of the higher price as a “was” price misleading.