The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a ruling to ban three of VictoriaPlum.com’s adverts after receiving two complaints for misleading customers, one of which was put forth by competitor, Victorian Plumbing.
The three adverts included two from the bathroom supplier’s website and one from a sponsored search ad.
Victorian Plumbing challenged two of the retailer’s ads, one seen on October 8, 2015 on the website, featured a web page about careers at the retailer, which included the claim, “We are the UK’s No 1 online bathroom retailer”.
The other, the sponsored search ad, was seen on October 8, and included the claim, “The Official Site of the UK’s Leading Bathroom Retailer”. Victoria Plumbing said the claims were “misleading and could not be substantiated”.
Another ad from the website, seen on September 25, 2015, featured a product page for a “Drift Sawn Oak 2 Door Floor Mounted Unit & Basin” with a price stating “£199, was £299, You Save £100”.
This was challenged by a member of the public after they received a Victoria Plum brochure, which stated the price of the product in the ad was £169 and said the savings claim was “misleading and could not be substantiated”.
Victoria Plum said its claims for being the “UK’s No. 1 online bathroom retailer” were based on it having the highest turnover of bathroom retailers in the UK, which operated only online.
It also said it identified its competitors based on the volume of Google searches in the year up to October 2015. The company claimed it had received nearly two million more searches than its competitor companies and identified two main competitors who operate exclusively online.
The ASA found that these, alongside the sponsored ad being accompanied by the claims “8.7 Customer Trust Score. 1,000,000+ Customers. Up to 25 Year Guarantees”, could be misinterpreted and were likely to “mislead customers because they did not make clear the basis of comparison”.
It also concluded that neither the evidence relating to turnover or the information relating to online search volumes supported the comparisons as Victoria Plum had intended them to be understood. It also pointed out that the two main competitors highlighted by Victoria Plum did not operate solely online as both had showrooms.
With regards to the pricing complaint, Victoria Plum said the product had been priced at £299 for 27 consecutive days from August 28 to September 23 and that the price was changed to £199 on September 24, which it remained at until November 24.
After supplying evidence, the ASA found that the “was” price of £299 has applied from August 28 to September 22, a period of 26 days. Victoria Plum said it was aware that BIS Pricing Practises Guide (PPG) required a product to be price-established for at least 28 days and it therefore was not in line with that guidance. It said this was due to an “administrative error resulting in pricing being changed one day early”.
The ASA found from pricing history, during the majority of the three months prior to the £299 pricing, the product had been offered for purchase at either £135 or £169. It assumed that the usual selling price was not £299 and found that the ad did not represent a genuine saving against the usual selling price. The ASA concluded that the savings claim had not been “substantiated” and that the advert, “breached the Code”.
This resulted in ASA ruling that the three ads, “must not appear again in their current form”.