UK: ASA Rulings Snapshot For Brands

Last Updated: 26 April 2017
Article by Sonal Patel

Please see below our snapshot of the recent ASA rulings published 19 April 2017.

--- Cosmetics and advertising disclosure ---

Coty UK Ltd

The ASA ruled that a TV advert for a Rimmel mascara contravened the ASA code because the ad conveyed a volumising, lengthening and thickening effect of the product due to the use of inserts and post-production techniques, that resulted in an effect which went beyond what was achievable with the product.

The ad was broadcast with a voice-over stating, "Dangerously bold lashes. New max-density brush for clump free lashes. Extreme volume ... Extreme wear." It included several images of the product being applied to eye lashes and a model wearing the mascara.

The complaint was that lash inserts had been used in a way to give a false impression as to the effects of the product. In accordance with industry practice, Rimmel had used individual lash inserts to fill in gaps and to create a uniform lash line. They also said that in post-production some lashes were re-drawn where they were not visible due to the model's dark eyeshadow, but had not been lengthened. They argued they had acted in accordance with the relevant guidelines on cosmetic production techniques and had not used lash inserts to mislead or exaggerate the effects of the mascara and therefore the complaint should not be upheld.

The ASA while recognising that in some circumstances the use of lash inserts may be appropriate, such as to fill in natural gaps in the lash line, considered that lash inserts should not create a lengthening or volumising effect beyond what could be achieved by the product on the model's natural lashes. The ASA also noted that the "after" photos as compared to the photos before post-production showed more evenly displayed eyelashes on the upper and lower eyelids, which made them appear to have more volume. Post-production techniques used were not intended to lengthen the model's eyelashes. However, the ASA considered that they did appear to be longer in the after photo, and that the overall effect was longer lashes with more volume.

Therefore, the complaint was upheld because the effects to volumising, lengthening and thickening were a result of the use of inserts and post-production techniques, rather than the effect of the product.

--- Awards and Endorsements ---

Purple Cloud Group Ltd

The ASA upheld a complaint against web design company, Purple Cloud in relation to a misleading reference to an award on its website.

Purple Cloud stated on its website that it had won the "Best Low Cost Web Design Company - Web Design Review Awards" in multiple years.

However, it was not clear to users that the review website was owned by the same company as Purple Cloud. Therefore, it was not an impartial or independent award. The web design company did not believe there was anything wrong with creating a site to rate their own businesses.

The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claims to mean that Purple Cloud had received awards from an independent, impartial body. The ASA considered that consumers would generally expect that to be the case when awards were referenced. The ASA Also noted that the awards were only given by the review company to companies linked to Purple Cloud and therefore considered that the awards had not been received from an independent and impartial body, concluding that the ad was therefore misleading and must be withdrawn.

--- Pricing ---

Park Plaza Hotels Europe BV

In a recent decision against Park Plaza hotels, the ASA has highlighted the importance of considering the wording of price claims very carefully.

An email from a group of hotels stated "BLACK FRIDAY ARRIVED EARLY LONDON £119...Enjoy Black Friday one week early with our exclusive offer...£119 for all our London hotels."

In this decision, the ASA considered that consumers would understand the promotion to mean that they would be able to book a room at the hotel in London at the price of £119.

In the absence of qualifying text, the ASA considered that consumers would understand the promotional price to apply to all rooms, standard or otherwise. The hotel chain did not provide sufficient detail to demonstrate how they had estimated the likely demand for the offer or how many rooms were available at the promotional price. The hotel chain had stated that the offer was "subject to availability", which was displayed on their click-through terms and conditions. However, the ASA did not consider that this negated the requirement for sufficient information regarding availability to be provided at the point of delivery of the ad. Where hotels or dates had, or were likely to have, very limited availability under the promotion, that information would affect a consumer's decision to participate and should, therefore, be made clear in the main body of the ad. The ASA ruled the ad contravened the ASA code.

Time Out Digital Ltd

An email promotion included text which stated "An online photography course with Shaw Academy Was £395, now £19". The complainant, who believed a similar product was available on the advertiser's website at a lower price, challenged whether the savings claim was misleading and could be substantiated.

The promoter ran the promotion via a partner, and provided a link to the website showing the product advertised at the higher price of £395. They provided a number of invoices and payment processing receipts dated from September 2016 up to the date the offer began, which they said demonstrated that customers had purchased the product for the higher price. They also provided a number of payment processing receipts dated after the offer had ended which demonstrated customers once more were purchasing the product for the higher price of £395. The ASA considered that consumers were likely to understand that they could make a saving of £376 against the usual selling price of the course at the time the ad appeared if they took up the offer.

In its ruling, although the ASA acknowledged that the product referred to by the complainant was similar to the product advertised, the ASA considered that the advertiser had demonstrated that the product available at the higher price was the one appearing in the ad. The ASA therefore ruled that the savings claim had been substantiated and the ad was not misleading or in contravention of the ASA code.

The author wishes to acknowledge the contributions of trainee Robert Grannells to this article.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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