ASA Adjudication on Homebase Ltd
489 - 499 Avebury Boulevard
Saxon Gate West
10 October 2012
Internet (sales promotion), Radio, Television
Number of complaints:
Leo Burnett Ltd
A TV ad, a radio ad, and an ad on www.homebase.co.uk:
a. The TV ad voice-over stated, "This weekend at Homebase there's 15% off everything when you spend £50. That's 15% on top of our other great offers. Homebase." On-screen text stated "15% off Excludes delivery charges, installation and gift vouchers".
b. The radio ad stated, "This weekend at Homebase there's a 15% off event in-store when you spend £50. That's 15% on top of our other great offers. Homebase. Exclusions apply."
c. The website ad stated "15% off everything Ends Sunday 20th May when you spend £50* Even on existing offers Use code DISCOUNT15 in the trolley *T&C's apply".
The complainant challenged whether the ads were misleading, because they did not make clear that customers could not use promotional vouchers to make purchases under the offer.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Homebase explained that the terms and conditions on the Homebase promotional voucher the complainant had attempted to use, which had been sent to Nectar Card holders and was for "£5 OFF when you spend £30", should have stated that it could not be used "during National Homebase discount days". They explained that was the term they used to describe "X% off" discounts which were available nationally on specific days, and the promotion described in the ad therefore was a national discount day. They apologised that an error had meant that that condition had not been included on the voucher and the complainant had therefore understood that it could be used in conjunction with the national discount day promotion when that was not the case. They said they would ensure that condition was included on their vouchers in future.
Homebase said they understood exclusions to offers could be brought to consumers' attention in an abridged manner in TV and radio ads, due to the time and space constraints of those mediums, provided there were measures in place to make that information available to consumers by other means. They believed that, because the ads did not state that the 15% discount applied to "all" their other offers, it indicated to consumers that exclusions might apply, and they noted that the radio ad specifically stated "Exclusions apply". They believed the TV and radio ads therefore complied with the Code. They acknowledged, however, that the website ad, which did not have the constraints of space and time inherent in broadcast ads, could have made the exclusion to the national discount day offer clear, and they offered to make that amendment in future.
Clearcast, responding in relation to the TV ad, said they felt that the text which stated "15% off excludes ... gift vouchers" would be considered to include promotional vouchers. They said, notwithstanding that, they had not considered specifying exclusions relating to promotional vouchers in similar Homebase ads. They said that, if the ad specifically mentioned promotional vouchers in conjunction with offers they would ensure that any material exclusions would be clearly stated. They said it could also be argued that, because the voice-over stated "spend £50", it made clear that customers would need to outlay funds, but if they handed over promotional vouchers they would not be spending £50. They believed the ad was not misleading.
The RACC, responding in relation to the radio ad, said it was their view that the qualifying information "Exclusions apply" covered the estimated small number of consumers who were not able to take advantage of the discount offer because they wished to make purchases with promotional vouchers. They said they did not have anything further to add to Homebase's response.
The ASA noted all the ads emphasised that the 15% discount applied "even on existing" or "on top of our other" offers, and we considered consumers would therefore be likely to understand that the national discount day offer could be used in conjunction with all other Homebase promotions. We considered consumers would understand the use of Homebase promotional vouchers, such as the "£5 OFF when you spend £30" voucher, as an 'offer' as referenced in the ads, because they could be used to get money off purchases.
We noted Clearcast's view that consumers would understand the on-screen text in the TV ad to mean that they could not use promotional vouchers as payment for purchases in conjunction with the offer, but we considered that consumers would instead understand the text to mean that purchases of gift vouchers were excluded from the offer. We noted the radio ad stated "Exclusions apply" but considered that, because the overall impression of the ad was that the national discount day offer could be used in conjunction with all Homebase's other offers, including their promotional vouchers, the statement contradicted, rather than clarified, the claim "That's 15% on top of our other great offers". We noted Homebase's acknowledgement that full details of exclusions to the offer should have been included on their website but, similarly, we considered that such an inclusion would have contradicted, rather than clarified, the claim "Even on existing offers" in the website ad.
We concluded the ads were misleading, because the overall impression of each of the ads was that the national discount day offer could be used in conjunction with all other Homebase offers, when that was not in fact the case. We also concluded the statement "Exclusions apply" in the radio ad contradicted, rather than clarified, that impression.
Ads (a) and (b) breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 (Misleading advertising) and 3.10 (Qualification).
Ad (c) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 (Qualification).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Homebase to ensure their ads did not imply that 'national discount day' offers could be used in conjunction with all other offers if that was not the case. We told them to ensure that qualifications clarified, rather than contradicted, the claims.