The word “guarantee” should not be used in a way that could confuse consumers about their legal rights but may be used colloquially provided the meaning is clear.
Marketers should distinguish between offering a guarantee, such as a satisfaction or your money back guarantee, and claims that something is guaranteed, for example, a certain level of performance is guaranteed. Marketers who cannot “guarantee” certain results should be careful not to imply they can.
- Significant limitations to guarantees should be clearly stated
Marketing communications must make clear each significant limitation to an advertised guarantee (of the type that has implications for a consumer’s rights). For example, if a warranty covers parts but not labour, marketers should make that clear. Similarly, if the guarantee applies only in certain circumstances or consumers have to fulfil certain criteria to validate their guarantee, that should be clear too.
An ad which referred to a rent guarantee was considered misleading because, although the ad did state that terms and conditions applied to the rent guarantee, significant limitations applied, and the ad did not make these clear. Because the significant limitations of the advertised guarantee had not been made clear, the ad breached the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code (Smart Invest Capital Ltd, 20 November 2018).
In addition, marketers must supply the full terms before the consumer is committed to taking up the guarantee. In the example given above, in addition to omitting the significant limitations, a copy of the full terms was not made available for landlords to view on the website (Smart Invest Capital Ltd, 20 November 2018).
In a similar case, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) considered that the unqualified claims “Your 12 Month No Quibble Guarantee” and “All your repairs and installations are guaranteed for 12 months” were likely to mislead. These claims were likely to be understood by consumers to mean that all repair and installation services were covered by the guarantee for 12 months, excluded repairs to blocked drains other than in very specific circumstances. Because that was a significant limitation to the guarantee it should have been made clear in the ad (Plumbforce Direct Ltd, 30 October 2019).
- Do not imply something is guaranteed if it is not
Marketers should take care to avoid any implication that a level of quality or performance is guaranteed, if it is not.
An ad for BT broadband, which stated “Your Stay Fast Guarantee” was considered misleading. The ASA considered that customers were likely to understand this to be an assurance of that speed, however, the speed given in the ad was not an actual minimum guaranteed speed, but an estimate of that speed, which was subject to revision, and not one on which consumers could necessarily rely to leave their contract without penalty. Because the stated speed was likely to be seen as a guaranteed minimum speed specific to the entered address, which was not the case, the ad was considered misleading (BT Sport, 22 December 2021).
The ASA also upheld complaints about the claim “lowest price guaranteed.” The complainant who found it was cheaper to book flights, accommodation, and cruise travel separately, challenged whether the claim “lowest price guaranteed” was misleading. The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim “lowest price guaranteed” in both ads to mean that the trips referenced in the ads by Cruise Nation could not be purchased elsewhere for less than the price advertised, and that the claim was accurate at the time the ad was seen. However, they provided no evidence that the prices stated were cheaper than any other travel provider for comparable trips (Cruise Nation, 24 April 2019).
- Be aware of consumers’ rights and relevant legislation
If advertisers offer a money-back guarantee, the CAP Code requires marketers must promptly refund consumers who make valid claims.
A complaint about the claims “100% Lifetime Money-Back Guarantee” and “you will see for yourself how using the VIP Inner Circle Service you can make excellent profits now and in the future or..I will give you your money back Guaranteed for Life!”, from a customer who had not received a refund, was upheld, because they did not provide any evidence to demonstrate that the complainant had been refunded, or otherwise substantiate the claims (VIP Inner Circle, 12 May 2021).
Marketers are also advised to seek legal advice, as, in some circumstances legislation could apply. For example, we understand that the Supply of Extended Warranties on Domestic Electrical Goods Order 2005 may apply to warranties offered on domestic electrical appliances. Section 4 details the obligation on marketers to advertise the price of an extended warranty on domestic electrical appliances in certain circumstances.
- Do not confuse between “lowest price guarantee” and “lowest price guaranted”
Many marketers offer “lowest price guarantees” whereby they offer to beat or match competitors’ prices. The principles are similar: the claim should not mislead, significant conditions should be clear from the outset and the full terms of the guarantee should be available before purchase. The ASA has investigated those types of ‘guarantee’ many times. Marketers often confuse the claim “lowest price guaranteed” (where they do extensive monitoring and lower their prices in response to market movements) with the claim to offer a “lowest price guarantee” (where they will act if the consumer finds a price lower than theirs). See ‘‘Lowest price claims and promises’ for further advice on such claims.
Complaints about an ad for a delivery service which stated “The Cheapest Parcel Delivery in the UK”, “Guaranteed lowest price to Europe” and “LOWEST PRICE GUARANTEE” were upheld. The ASA considered that that it was unclear from the ad whether Parcel2Go offered current cheaper prices than its competitors, offered current parity with them, or offered a guarantee to change a price to beat a cheaper competitor offer. In reality it offered a price match scheme, offering to match, rather than beat, competitor prices. Because it did not provide any evidence to show its prices were in line with the likely interpretation of the claims and because the combination of statements rendered the meaning of the claims ambiguous, the ASA considered that the ad was misleading (Parcel2go.com Ltd, 16 November 2016).
Other typical pitfalls include the failure to include key information. In 2014, the ASA upheld a complaint against a “price beat offer” for a TV. Because the advertiser did not make sufficiently clear that to be eligible the alternative TV had to include a comparable 5 year warranty (included for free with the advertisers’ product) the ASA concluded that the ad was misleading (Richer Sounds plc, 30 April 2014 ).
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 ASA.
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