Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has published Advertising Guidance on Lowest Price Claims and Promises, which provides guidance on the use of lowest price claims and promises to help marketers and their agencies ensure that their marketing conforms to the CAP Code.
The guidance covers: the law and the Codes; “lowest price” claims; price promises; guarantee vs. guaranteed; and “unbeatable low prices” claims and promises.
The key points are as follows:
- “Lowest price” claims (or “best price” claims) must be backed up by suitable evidence to show that marketers will always beat, and not merely match, competitors’ prices (Section 4);
- If “lowest price” claims are based on monitoring carried out on a specific date, marketing communications should include that date. Monitoring should be carried out by the marketer as close as possible to the appearance dates of marketing communications (Section 4). Marketers in highly competitive markets where competitors change their prices swiftly and in response to a price led marketing communication should take extra care;
- Offering a price promise (e.g., to beat a competitors’ cheaper price if informed of that price by a consumer) does not justify a “lowest price” claim if the latter claim cannot be supported (Section 4);
- Any significant conditions attached to price promises should be clearly stated (Section 5);
- “Lowest prices guaranteed” and “lowest prices guarantee” are often confused. The former constitutes a claim that the product cannot be purchased as cheaply or cheaper elsewhere, the latter a price promise (Sections 5 & 6);
- Marketers offering to match, but not beat, competitors’ prices should ensure that their advertising clearly reflects that (Section 7); and
- Marketers should ensure that “lowest price” claims in media with long copy deadlines (e.g., magazines) are still accurate at the time that marketing communications appear. Similarly, “lowest price” claims in advertising material with a long “shelf-life” (e.g., advertisements in directories or brochures) should remain accurate for the duration of the marketing communications’ appearance (Section 4).
Claims must be sufficiently qualified. Qualifications should be presented prominently, and must not contradict the overall impression in the ad. A complaint about an ad which stated “UK’s lowest price” was upheld because, whilst footnote text referred to particular retailers and to a particular point in time, it lacked prominence, and the ASA considered that the information was not sufficient to counteract the overall impression that the claim “the UK’s lowest prices” related to all retailers and was accurate at the time the ad was seen. (Hutchison 3G UK Ltd t/a Three, 03 February 2016). See also Direct Line, 21 July 2021.
Ads sometimes 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). Marketers must make clear which they are offering. 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).
Lowest price claims must not mislead. A TV ad which stated, “Save big on the UK’s lowest priced superfast broadband, with WiFi Guarantee or money back” was considered misleading. The ASA considered that it was likely to be understood by consumers to mean that Sky were offering the UK’s lowest price broadband overall, when in reality the comparison related only to superfast broadband products which offered a guarantee of a certain speed of WiFi in every room of a home, or money-back on the subscription if that was not achieved (Sky UK Ltd, 13 May 2020).
See ‘Guarantees & Warranties’ for more general guidance.
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 (ASA). CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
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