Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.


Savings claims are a common promotional tool, often in the form of discounts such as “was £9.99, now £4.99” or sales promotions. Marketers wanting to make claims about the relative cost of their product should ensure that they make the basis of the comparison clear and follow the guidance below to ensure their pricing does not mislead, or is likely to mislead, consumers.

Do not run promotional discounts for too long
Ensure “up to” claims do no exaggerate potential savings
Do not artificially inflate prices
Use the correct terms for introductory offers
 

Do not run promotional discounts for too long

Advertisers should ensure they select genuine previous prices before using them to advertise savings. Prices used as a basis for comparison should generally have been the most recent price available. The period of time for which the new lower price will be available should not be so long that the comparison becomes misleading. In 2014 the ASA ruled that a promotion offering discounted kitchens was misleading because the 83-day sale period was significantly longer than the 28-day period for which the reference price was available (Homebase Ltd, 5 November 2014). As a general rule of thumb, we advise against using a lower promotional price for longer than the product was on sale at the original price.

If a savings claim does not meet these criteria, the basis of the claim should be clearly stated. The higher price should still have been charged within a reasonable time and advertisers should generally state when the higher price was charged, for how long and any price lower than the intended ‘now’ price that applied for a significant period in between.
 

Ensure “up to” claims do no exaggerate potential savings

When using claims such as “save up to”, both the ASA and CAP are likely to expect that all included items are for sale at some level of discount, with around 10% of customers achieving the maximum claimed saving. For example, the ASA ruled that an ad for photographic equipment offering “up to 50% off promotional items” was misleading, because only one of 12 items had a 50% reduction (The Jessop Group Ltd, 24 October 2012). The same principle applies when offering discounted “from” prices (VUR Village Trading No 1 Ltd, 27 April 2016).
 

Do not artificially inflate prices

Marketers should be cautious when making a savings claim based on recent prices. The ASA upheld complaints about a supermarket ad offering a multi-buy offer on cereals. The product was priced at 97p per box between January 2015 and 5 July 2015, and at £1.38 from 6 July 2015. On 7 July 2015 the product was then included in a mix-and-match multi-buy offer of three packs for £3. The ASA considered the offer misleading because the £1.38 was not the usual selling price (Asda Stores Ltd, 4 May 2016).
 

Use the correct terms for introductory offers

If a marketer has not sold a product before and wishes to offer it at an introductory price lower than the intended standard price, they should make clear it is an introductory offer rather than discount. Using scored-out future pricing, for example, is unlikely to be suitable. It is also likely that marketers will need to state when the introductory offer will end. At the end of the introductory period, they should ensure the price is increased as indicated.

See Savings claims, Prices, Comparisons: General, Lowest price claims and promises

Updated 15 December 2016

 


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