If postage and packaging fees apply, these must be made clear in the ad. If they are charges as a set fee which applies per product, the cost should be included in the price. Otherwise the ad must make it clear that the fee is chargeable and what the fee is, or how it is calculated. These delivery fees should be clearly stated in the initial marketing material. An ad for event tickets on the Get Me In website stated “Prices may vary from face value and exclude order & delivery fees [hyperlink] (applicable per transaction)”. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) considered that the UK delivery fee could have been calculated in advance, and therefore the ad should have stated the applicable UK delivery charge alongside the ticket price. Because it did not, the ASA found the ad misleading (GETMEIN! Ltd, 07 March 2018). See Compulsory costs and charges: Delivery Charges for more information.
To legitimately describe a product as “free”, promoters may charge only for the minimum, unavoidable cost of responding to the promotion, the true cost of freight or delivery or the cost of any travel involved if consumers collect the offer. In other words, promoters can charge for the actual, uninflated cost of postage, but must not charge the consumer for any packing, packaging, handling or administration in relation to the “free” item. This applies to direct or indirect forms of payment, and will apply even if the promoter requires consumers to provide the packaging (eg. send the promoter a Jiffy bag or envelope). Advertisers should not state that any fee is postage only, if it also includes packaging. The ASA ruled against and ad which quoted an amount as “postage” which included packing (Woods Supplements, 27 June 2007).
The ASA upheld complaints about an app for a photo printing company which stated “FREE PHOTO PRINTS DELIVERED TO YOUR DOOR”. In some cases, consumers were paying more than the minimum cost of postage to obtain the “free” prints, therefore the prints should not have been described as “free”. In addition, the ad breached the Code because it did not make clear that consumers had to pay for postage to obtain the free prints (PlanetArt UK Ltd, 03 August 2022).
Source: Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP).
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. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
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