The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has forced online retailer Made.com Design Ltd to replace an advert on the London Underground.
The advert listed three products and compared the advertiser's price against a "typical high street" price. Two complainants challenged whether the comparisons between the advertiser's prices and "typical high street" prices were misleading and could be substantiated, because they understood that the advertiser was the sole vendor for the products listed and they did not believe the products they were being compared to were equivalent in quality.
Made.com Design explained that the products it offered were unique, and therefore competing products would vary in certain respects – for example, in design and functionality, finish and the materials used – but the company did not consider that those differences meant that the items were not direct substitutes, and maintained that any differences in quality between its products and its competitors' products were not material enough to render any comparison between its products and the comparator products misleading.
Made.com Design pointed out that the advert explicitly stated that the typical high street price was "based on closest equivalent products in design and functionality".
The ASA discovered that, when making comparisons against high street products, Made.com Design attempted to locate three similar products which were available from high street retailers, and then took the median price as their point of comparison.
However, because it considered that most consumers reading the ad would believe that the comparator high street products were of the same quality, and it was the fact that the products came "direct from the makers" that accounted exclusively for the saving in relation to those retailers, and it had not seen evidence to confirm that that was the case, it concluded that the ad was in breach of the Code, and must not appear again in its current form.
A spokesperson for Made.com said: “We are disappointed with the ASA’s finding as we believe consumers will be well aware that, as many of our products are unique, there will naturally be differences in the finishes and materials used.”
Read the full summary here.