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Original pricing: how fashion businesses can lack originality
- AuthorStephen Sidkin
Charles Tyrwhitt sell shirts
Some of their shirts are sold online at www.ctshirts.co.uk. For one particular cotton shirt the text on the page stated “29.95 was £70.00 saving £40.05” (the “advertisement”).
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) were contacted by two complainants who thought that the “was” price of £70.00 was misleading and could not be substantiated. When contacted by the ASA, Charles Tyrwhitt stated that the shirt had been sold for £70.00 for a six week period between 1 December 2015 and 12 January 2015 and said the strikethrough price reflected the previous price of the shirts.
When assessing whether the advertisement was misleading, the ASA held that the display of the “was”, or original, price of £70.00 meant that consumers were likely to understand that that was the shirt’s usual selling price.
In a previous ruling, involving Ebuyer (UK) Ltd, the ASA considered that a statement such as the one used by Charles Tyrwhitt would imply to consumers that the shirts had been sold at the original price for a “significant period of time immediately preceding the price reduction.” Therefore the “saving of £40.05” claim would likely be interpreted as representing a genuine saving. However in this case the shirts had last been sold at the original price three months before the advertisement was seen.
The ASA were not able to determine whether the original price was the shirt’s usual selling price as no evidence to demonstrate this, such as the pricing history of the product, had been provided.
After assessing the complaints, the ASA found that the advertisement breached the CAP Code. Interestingly, Charles Tyrwhitt’s competitor TM Lewin was found to be in breach of the same CAP rules in January 2014 when they sold items at the original prices for a substantially shorter period of time than the reduced prices.
Charles Tyrwhitt was told that the advertisement must not appear again in its current form and that all future savings claims must not mislead consumers.
This latest decision by the ASA follows media coverage of retailers, such as Sports Direct, marking products with an “original” price which they are sold at for a very brief period of time, if at all.
It emphasises the need for fashion businesses to ensure that they comply with the CAP Code in order to avoid the glare of public scrutiny.