ASA ruling | MissPap Ltd t/a Misspap
Issues: Countdown clocks/ time-limited promotions, Promotions calendars/ sequential promotions, Brands/ retail
- This ruling is one of two this month concerning countdown clocks for promotional offers (see also I Saw if First Ltd).
- The ASA has noted the increasing prevalence of countdown clocks and provided guidance in April (here https://www.asa.org.uk/news/the-final-countdown.html). The guidance makes clear that promotional offers that appear time-limited, including by use of a countdown clock and wording such as “hurry”, must genuinely be time-limited and so cannot simply reset once the countdown has reached zero. It is also misleading to offer a better price after the countdown – rather than reverting to the pre-countdown price which is what consumers would be deemed to expect.
- The message for brands is that promotional offers need to be coordinated across the day. Particularly where time-limited promotions are used, the brand needs to have in mind the timeline and check that subsequent offers don’t jeopardise the transparency/fairness of the earlier time-limited promotion.
The website misspap.com, for the online fashion retailer ‘Miss Pap’, displayed a banner at the top of the page stating, “£1.99 NEXT DAY DELIVERY*”. Smaller text below stated, “HURRY ENDS IN 00H 02M 13S”. When the countdown clock reached zero, however, the offer became “£1 NEXT DAY DELIVERY!”.
Miss Pap explained that the £1.99 next day delivery offer was genuinely time-limited. The fact that a subsequent offer was then made on better terms did not render the advert misleading because consumers were unlikely to make a different transactional decision based on a 99p differential in the context where standard delivery costs were £5.99.
Perhaps more interestingly, Mis Pap raised the issue of complex promotions calendars, pointing out that they ran multiple promotions through-out a day and that it was not industry practice to disclose details of the promotions calendar (and value of the next promotions) to customers.
The ASA had little difficulty finding that the promotion did present as a time-limited offer, was not a genuinely time-limited offer and was misleading.
The countdown clock and “hurry” wording rendered the promotion a time-limited one. However, the fact that a better promotion was available after the countdown clock expired meant that the original promotion was not genuinely time-limited. Further, the countdown clock was likely to pressurise consumers into making very quick purchase decisions, without giving their purchase the due consideration they normally would, because of the misleading implication that the offer would run out at the end of the countdown.
Miss Pap’s arguments as to promotions calendars and the materiality of 99p price differentials between sequential offers were not accepted.
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