ASA upholds complaint over John Lewis advert

Department store group John Lewis has had its knuckles rapped by the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) for misleading viewers in an advert.

A complaint was issued to the ASA over a deal seen on www.johnlewis.com on February 15, which offered a LG TV 55B6 with a ‘FREE LG SH7 sound bar’ for £1,999.

The complainant, who understood that the TV was previously available for £1,749 without the sound bar and that the sound bar was also sold separately for £259, challenged whether the ‘FREE’ claim was misleading.

John Lewis Partnership defended its advert, saying that in the month prior to February 14, the TV received a discount of £250 which was partially funded by the manufacturer. That financial support was withdrawn on February 15 and the TV increased to its original selling price of £1,999.

On February 15, the manufacturer offered financial support for another promotion, which was a bundle which included a free sound bar worth £259.99. The TV without the sound bar was available for purchase at £1,999. The retailer also provided evidence of the selling price of the TV since May 2016.

John Lewis said it did not consider that the price of the TV had been inflated to cover the cost of the sound bar, as the support was only available from the manufacturer when the TV was bought as part of the bundle.

The ASA considered that consumers would interpret the “FREE” claim to mean that the usual selling price of the TV was £1,999, and that the sound bar had been added as part of the promotion for no extra cost.

In particular, ASA considered that consumers would expect that the price immediately before the promotion would have been £1,999, with no sound bar included.

However, ASA, added, it understood that the sound bar offer followed another offer which meant that the TV had been on offer for £1,749.

ASA noted that, since May 2016, the price of the TV had regularly changed and had often been available at £1,749. It therefore did not consider £1,999 to be the usual selling price.

The regulatory body acknowledged that both the sound bar promotion and previous reduction in price in the previous promotion were driven by financial incentives offered by the TV supplier, which had been available from various retailers including John Lewis.

However, it considered that the previous reduction in price undermined the expectations that consumers would have about the sound bar being added without the price being increased, and contributed towards £1,999 not being the usual selling price of the product.

ASA said: “Because consumers were likely to understand that the sound bar had been included with the TV without increasing the price of the product, and because that was not the case, we conclude that the claim that the soundbar was ‘FREE’ was misleading.”

ASA concluded that the advert cannot appear again in this form. It also told John Lewis that it should not describe a package as containing a ‘free’ item if consumers have to pay more than they did before that item was included.

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