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Product: Computers (Computer Accessories)
Advertiser: Electrifying Ventures Ltd – Laptopcharges.ie
Medium: Online - Company Website
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10, 4.22, 4.24
The website, Laptopchargers.ie, provided a function for users to search for laptop chargers by brand and model. One such search resulted in a marketing communication for a branded laptop charger. The marketing communication featured an image of a laptop charger, an adaptor and part of the mains lead. Beside the image, text stated [brand and model number] Laptop Charger with text underneath stating
List price: €49.99 Saving of €30.00”
Underneath the price there was a “Add To Basket” button and a countdown timer headlined “RECEIVE TOMORROW (30/12)”
Directly underneath the product images, text visible above the fold (1), stated:
“Input Voltage: 100-240 Volts
Wattage: 65 Watts
Output Voltage: 20 Volts
Ampage: 2.25 Amps
Warranty: 1 Year
Mains Lead Included: Yes
Delivery Time: Next Day Delivery (Ireland Only)
Delivery Method: DPD Trackable
Certification: CE, RoHS
Worldwide Shipping: Yes
Vat Registered: Yes
Below the fold, the following text was stated:
Compatibility Guarantee: Yes
Overload Protection: Built in
Current Regulation: Yes
Operating Temperature: 0 to 40 Degrees
Customer Reviews: View 400+ Reviews Here”
Further information included on the webpage stated:
“The laptop charger is for the [brand and model] and has 20 Volts and 2.25 Amps.”
“To assist our customer in purchasing an Item for the lowest overall cost, we are now offering the option of selecting no mains lead. If you are unsure if your old mains lead is working we would recommend ordering a replacement with the charger.”
“We offer a range of delivery options which should suit everyones budget. For urgent orders we recommend using one of our premium delivery options.”
(1) https://dictionary.cambridge.org/ “in the top part of a website page which you can see on the screen when you first open the page”
The complainant objected to the advertising on the following grounds:
The complainant considered that the advertisement was misleading as it had stated that a mains lead was included which the complainant considered was stating that it was included in the purchase price of the charger, however, when they clicked “add to basket” a pop-up box showed a higher price than that advertised. The complainant did not consider that it was possible to purchase the charger at the advertised price of €19.99.
The complainant considered that the use of a pre-selected drop-down menu for the mains lead could induce a consumer to spend more than they expected to. The complainant noted that when they were presented with a choice of mains lead lengths at various prices, the mid-priced option was selected by default and that there was no option to not purchase a mains lead.
The complainant noted that the advertisement had stated that ‘Next Day Delivery’ was included, however, at the checkout stage of their purchase, they were presented with three delivery options, an express option that appeared to be on offer, a standard 2 – 5 day delivery option and a named courier express Europe option, with the cost of the first two options provided, while the courier express Europe option did not include the cost. The complainant noted that when they initially viewed the website to place an order, the delivery option preselected for that order was the express option on offer which was the cheapest option, however, when they viewed the website some days later, the same option was pre-selected, however, it was no longer the cheapest delivery option. The complainant therefore objected to the use of a pre-selected delivery option that they considered could be a more expensive option to consumers as the price appeared to vary.
The complainant considered that the advertising was misleading as they did not consider that it was clear that the products being advertised were generic products. The complainant considered that the headline of the advertisement had led them to believe that the charger was a [named brand] branded charger.
The advertisers said that they take their responsibilities under the ASAI Code very seriously and all of their marketing communications are legal, decent, honest and truthful. They said that they are an Irish owned, family operated business, who are specialists in the sale of technical electrical items
The advertisers said that they offered a number of options to customers in respect of mains leads with customers being able to choose from a 0.5 metre, a 1.8 metre or 3.0 metre mains lead with their order. They said that the pricing of the leads could vary from time to time depending on their own purchase cost, as would be routine in business. They also said that they often offer the 0.5 metre mains lead for free and that on occasion, they also have other cable lengths available for purchase than those referred to.
The advertisers said that from time to time, they offered free mains leads upgrades and free shipping upgrades. They said that they had not stated in the advertisement that the mains lead was included in the price of €19.99, rather, they said, the section of the advertisement had stated “Mains Lead Included: Yes” and that other details relating to the laptop charger were also listed in the same section, including a reference to delivery. They said that after the complainant added the laptop charger to their basked, they proceeded to the “Review and Checkout” page, and on this page they had a choice regarding the length and cost of the mains lead they wished to order with their charger. They did not accept that the advertisement meant, or could have been taken to mean, that the mains lead was included in the price of €19.99. They said that the fact that customers had a choice regarding the length of mains lead that they wished to order, necessitated that the price would be updated when they made their choice at the checkout before completing their order. They said that if the advertisement meant, or could have been taken to mean, that the mains lead was included in the price of €19.99, then the same reasoning would apply to the cost of delivery, which was clearly not the case in circumstances where customers have a choice regarding delivery options. In the circumstances, they did not accept that an issue had arisen from the perspective of the Code regarding the advertising relating to the mains lead.
The advertisers stated that the mid-priced option for a mains lead (currently their 1.8 metre lead priced at €3.99) was preselected because it was the most popular option chosen by their customers and had not been preselected for the purpose of inducing a customer to incur a charge that they would not otherwise incur. They said that customers could choose an alternative option before completing their order and that many of their customers did choose an alternative option.
They said that some customers did prefer not to order a mains lead at all, and they therefore stated on each product page that customers can choose not to order a mains lead with their charger. They said that customers can inform them of their preference by emailing them or by using their “contact us” form and that their email address was displayed on the product page and the top of each webpage. They did, however, appreciate that the mechanism for informing them that no mains lead was required may not have been entirely clear from the advertisement when the complainant was ordering and therefore, the complainant may have understood that an option not to order a mains lead would be available at checkout. They said that they have updated information on their website to clarify that customers can inform them that they do not require a mains lead with their order by emailing them, with the text displayed on each product page. They did not, however, accept that an issue arose in this regard from the perspective of the Code and that the advertisement again did not mean, or could not be taken to mean, that the mains lead was included in the price of €19.99.
The advertisers stated that they provided a next-day delivery service of products to locations on the island of Ireland and that they also offered alternative delivery options for less urgent orders so that customers could choose how much they wished to spend on delivery. In response to the complaint that their express option had no price displayed, they said that when a customer chose the express option, the price was then displayed alongside that option and the total cost of the order was updated before the order was completed. They said that this procedure would have been the same for the complainant when placing their own order.
They said that a customer must choose one of the delivery options and that the promotional delivery option was preselected because it was the most popular option chosen by their customers and not to induce a customer to incur a charge that they would otherwise not incur. They said that customers may choose an alternative option regarding delivery before they complete their order. They said that they note that the complainant had acknowledged that the promotional express delivery option, was the cheapest option for them and had been preselected and while they acknowledged that it was not the cheapest option when the complainant visited the website some days later, however, they considered that this undermined the assertion that the preselected box induced a customer to pay for a delivery option that may not be suitable for them or was more expensive than necessary.
The advertisers said that they offered chargers with specifications suitable for a broad range of laptops and other electrical items. They said that they stocked more than 20,000 types of laptop chargers, therefore it was necessary to refer on their website to the brands and models of laptop with which the chargers were compatible so that each customer could choose the correct charger for their laptop. They said that they did not present themselves or hold themselves in any way as stocking branded laptop chargers. They said that the nature of their business was clearly explained throughout their website, including on the webpage which the complainant had referred to. They referred to a section on their homepage titled “Laptop Chargers” and the reference in the product description for each laptop charger confirming that the charger has a compatibility guarantee, which would clearly not be necessary if the charger was the branded charger for the laptop in question. They also stated that a compatible charger was pictured on the product page, not an image of a branded charger. In the circumstances, they did not accept that the advertisement had implied that the charger was a [named brand] branded product.
Complaint Upheld In Part
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
Issue 1 - Upheld:
The Complaints Committee noted that the advertising had included an image of a laptop charger including both the adaptor and the mains lead and that the price given on the product page had stated “€19.99”. The Committee also noted that the details included on the product page had stated that the mains lead was included. In the circumstances, the Committee did not consider it unreasonable for a consumer to expect that the product advertised at €19.99 included a mains lead. In the circumstances, the Committee considered that the advertisement was in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4, 4.22 and 4.24 of the Code.
Issue 2 - Upheld:
The Committee noted that once a customer selected a charger and added it to their basket, a pop-up box appeared which displayed a price that was higher than that advertised on the product homepage, and that only by clicking on “Review & Checkout” were the various mains lead options displayed. While the Committee noted that the advertisers said that there was an option given to customers to contact them if they did not wish to purchase a mains lead, the Committee noted that the information was only provided on the bottom of the product details page, with no information provided on how to contact the advertiser.
The Committee also noted that at the dropdown section of the checkout that detailed the three mains lead options, no reference had been made to the option of purchasing a charger without a mains lead. While the Committee did not consider that the existence of a preselected drop down menu for the various mains leads was in breach of the Code, they did consider that the absence of information outlining the choice of not purchasing a mains lead could mean that a consumer could incur a cost for a mains lead that was not warranted.
In the circumstances the Committee considered that the advertising was in breach of Sections 4.1 and 4.4 of the Code.
Issue 3 – Not Upheld:
The Complaints Committee noted that the complainant objected to the use of a pre-selected dropdown, however, the Committee did not consider that the use of same was in breach of the Code.
While the Committee noted that the cost of the courier express option was not listed, once the option was selected, the price of that option was provided, before any purchase had been made. The Committee also noted that the product page had stated “Delivery Time” and had then referred to the next day delivery service and had not stated that the cost of delivery was included. In the light of the above, the Committee did not consider that the advertising was in breach of the Code on the grounds raised in Issue 3.
Issue 4 - Upheld:
The Complaints Committee noted the advertisers’ statement that the details on each product page had included a reference to ‘Compatibility Guarantee: yes” which the advertisers considered had clearly indicated that the products advertised were generic. However, the Committee noted that no reference had been made to the fact that the products advertised were generic products, particularly as the product listing had included a brand name on its own, and also that the home page of the website had stated that they stocked '[Brand] Laptop Chargers’ and had also listed various other brands. In the circumstances, the Committee considered that the advertising was in breach of Sections 4.1 and 4.4 of the Code.
The advertising should not appear in its current form again.