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Advertising Daily Deals

05 February 2013

Whether charging through crowds in the January sales or looking for bargains online, who doesn’t like a good deal? In the last few years the daily deals model has expanded into a multi-million pound business and brought group buying into the mainstream.

Although the industry remains young, various teething problems have resulted in a number of complaints and ASA rulings. These rulings offer useful guidance to help ensure that your future offers comply with the Code.

On the most basic level, even though you work with third-party merchants and are often reliant on the information they provide, you are responsible for the claims in your promotions and must hold evidence to support them. This responsibility extends to expired deals, which can still fall foul of the Code if the claims remain publically viewable on your websites.

It is fair to say that discounts are at the heart of your business model. In the early days, many deals were advertised with 80% or even 90% savings. But were such savings really achievable in all cases? If you wish to make a savings claim based on a reference price, you need to be able to prove that the price is genuine. Has the product been generally sold at the reference price? Can you provide a number of receipts or sales records? Does the product routinely sell for a cheaper price elsewhere? A genuine and fair reference price should help to ensure a genuine and fair savings claim. A menu or a website screenshot, for example, is usually insufficient evidence for this type of claim without the supporting proof of a number of confirmed sales. See this ASA ruling for an example of this principle in practice.

If you intend to use direct comparisons with specific websites or shops you should bear in mind Rules 3.33 to 3.39 of the CAP Code. Comparisons must make clear the basis of the comparison. In this ruling, the ASA considered that a price comparison was misleading because there were significant differences between the tailor-made Go-Kart experience offered in the deal and the package usually available from the provider. It is generally advisable to explain the basis of your price claims with as much information as a consumer would need to be able to make an informed purchase decision.

You must also make sure that the description of the product on offer is accurate. The ASA has seen two main problems with product descriptions.

Firstly, advertisers have breached the Code in the past by making unsubstantiated efficacy claims for health and beauty products like "weight-loss hot pants" or a cream that offered “temporary freeze-like effects on the face muscles" but could not be proven to offer more than a moisturising effect. A similar problem can arise when advertisers are not clear about the product itself. In this ruling, the ASA upheld a complaint about an ad for “micro ring hair extensions”, because the offer was, in fact, for “micro ring weft hair extensions”. The ASA considered that the “weft” extension technique (where sections of hair are attached across the scalp rather than individual strands being attached to natural hair) was material information which the consumer needed to make an informed purchase decision.

Secondly, significant conditions of offers have not always been made clear to consumers. This promotion for a kite-surfing course did not make clear that the offer was only redeemable on weekdays or that additional fees were payable.

The ASA has also looked at whether certain types of time-limited offer comply with the Code’s social responsibility rules. This mainly concerns invasive medical procedures such as cosmetic surgery. The ASA has previously ruled that a daily deals voucher, available for only 24 hours, pressurised consumers into making a decision to buy cosmetic surgery. The ASA has more recently gone further with an offer for laser eye surgery that appeared over seven days. In this case the ASA considered that the time-limitation element of the deal was likely to unduly hurry consumers into making a purchasing decision. The ASA has, however, considered that an offer for cosmetic facial injections that ran for 72 hours was not irresponsible, which would appear to reflect the relatively less invasive aspect of this procedure. It is worth pointing out here that advertisers must not offer prescription-only medicines, such as Botox, to the public.

If consumers can be confident that your offers are clear, with no hidden surprises, you are less likely to spend your time responding to complaints and, we would hope, consumers will be more likely to buy from you again. After all, who doesn’t like a good deal?

As ever, if you need help and guidance on your promotions, contact the CAP Copy Advice team on 0207 492 2100 or submit a query via the website.

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