Unlike superiority, or superlative claims, which claim to be superior to all alternatives, parity and top parity claims are those which state that a product or service is equal to its competitors. Any parity claims which consumers are likely to understand as objective claims must be supported by evidence. Top parity and parity claims may also be comparisons with identifiable competitors. Where advertisers make c with identifiable competitors, additional rules will apply.
Top parity claims
Top parity claims are top-equal or joint-best claims, such as “you won’t find the same deal for less” (Progressive Financial Services Ltd, 9 February 2005). Top parity claims may be used where an outright superiority claim is not possible.
Objective top parity claims should only be made if the marketer holds sufficient evidence to support the claim. In 2018 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) considered that consumers would understand the claim “protects you just as effectively as Deet”, alongside the claim “It is just as strong as any Deet based product” to mean that the products would provide the same duration and level of protection as all DEET-based products. Because the advertiser had not provided the ASA with any studies directly comparing the efficacy and duration of protection of the products with any DEET-based products, the claims were considered misleading (Howad Ltd t/a incognito, 22 August 2018).
The ASA has considered multiple “unbeatable” claims to be top parity claims. In 2010, they held that a product’s claim to be “an unbeatable treatment for head lice” was a top parity claim, rather than a superiority claim. Because the evidence demonstrated that the treatment was 100% effective and no product could exceed that, the ASA concluded that the claim was not misleading (Chefaro UK Ltd, 8 December 2010). In contrast, the claim that a different head lice product was “an unbeatable treatment” was considered misleading because the ASA had not been provided with robust evidence which demonstrated that the product was 100% effective, so the claim was not substantiated (Omega Pharma Ltd, 9 April 2014).
Usually objective top parity claims will be comparative claims, and additional considerations may also apply. See below for more information about making comparative claims, and the following guidance: Comparisons: General, Comparisons: Identifiable competitors, and Comparisons: Verifiability.
In some circumstances, the ASA may consider that top parity claims are unlikely to be interpreted as objective claims, or taken literally by consumers, either because they are clearly a subjective expression of the marketer’s opinion, or because they are clearly obvious exaggerations (“puffery”). These types of claims are unlikely to be capable of substantiation, and are acceptable, provided they do not materially mislead. For example, the ASA held that the claim “Nobody Does News Better” was a subjective one (ITV, October 2000).
See also Substantiation.
A parity claim is a claim that a product or service is equal to alternatives, without claiming that it is the top-equal or joint-best. As with all objective claims, in order to make any objective parity claims marketers must hold evidence which substantiates the claim.
The ASA investigated an ad for a cordless vacuum which stated “As Powerful as a Corded Vacuum”. The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim “As Powerful as a Corded Vacuum” to mean that the cordless vacuum was as effective at cleaning as a range of standard corded vacuum cleaners, but would not expect it to be equally effective as all corded vacuum cleaners. In the absence of a sufficiently clear and prominent qualification, the ASA also considered that consumers would understand the claim to mean that the vacuum was as effective at cleaning dust, dirt and debris as a corded vacuum on all surface types. Because Vax’s evidence did not relate to all surface types as suggested by the claim, and only included dust pick-up performance testing, the claim had not been substantiated, and was therefore considered misleading (Vax Ltd, 19 June 2019).
Is the claim a comparison with identifiable competitors?
Marketers do not need to explicitly identify the competitor or product that they are comparing with to be subject to the rules on comparisons with ‘identifiable’ competitors. If it is possible to name at least one competitor, then the claim will be considered a comparison with an identifiable competitor or competitors.
Top parity claims like “joint-leading” are, by their nature, likely to be seen as a comparison with all competitors, which will mean they are likely to be identifiable.
When making a comparison with an identifiable competitor, comparisons must not mislead the consumer about the product or the competing product, must be about products which meet the same need or are intended for the same purpose, and must be verifiable.
In order to make a comparison with an identifiable competitor or competitors verifiable, the ad should include, or direct a consumer to, sufficient information to allow them to understand the comparison, and be able to check the claims were accurate.
When considering the claim “protects you just as effectively as Deet”, the ASA considered that consumers would be able to identify other brands of mosquito repellent that contained DEET on the market. Therefore the claim was considered a comparison with identifiable competitors. Because the ad did not signpost or make available further information that would enable consumers to check the comparison, the claim was not verifiable and breached the advertising Code (Howad Ltd t/a incognito, 22 August 2018).
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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