ASA ruling in relation to printed adverts issued by online businesses

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has just issued an interesting ruling against online electronics retailer dabs.com.

Like many online retailers, Dabs uses dynamic pricing – in other words, the price of a particular item can vary from day to day (for example, to reflect the price charged by competitors). However, Dabs also issues a traditional promotional printed brochure. Dabs thought that it had addressed the issue of price discrepancies by telling readers of its brochure to check the website for the latest price.

The ASA rejected this wording, holding that the brochure was misleading and a breach of the ASA code. It ruled that any prices quoted in an advert must be correct for the length of time that the advert is in circulation. In the case of a printed brochure, this means that the prices quoted in it would have to be valid on the website for so long as the brochure is being circulated. This would presumably not stop the retailer from offering a lower price, but would prevent the retailer from raising its prices above those advertised in the brochure for so long as that brochure is valid.

This ruling is relevant to all businesses that operate dynamic pricing (not just online retailers), and will require them to consider how they advertise or promote their business and prices – whether that is through printed brochures, or otherwise.

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