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Product: Hearing Aids
Advertiser: Blackberry Hearing
Medium: Online - Company Website
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10, 4.15, 4.17, 4.31, 4.32, 4.33
The home page of the advertisers’ website included the following statements:
““Ireland’s Best Hearing Aid Provider”
This is according to our customers! See hundreds of validated customers’ comments on our testimonials page including a link to independent Google reviews.”
The “Our Story” section of the advertisers’ website included the following statement:
“We offer the best technology at the best prices. We do not own retail shops on the high-street and we don’t advertise on TV or in National Newspapers; this allows us to offer you, our customers, lower prices than our competitors.
Specsavers Optical Group Limited objected to the advertising on the following grounds:
Specsavers considered that the claim “Ireland’s Best Hearing Aid provider” on the advertisers’ home page had not been substantiated. As the claim had been made on the basis of customer reviews only with no supporting evidence, they considered that the claim was misleading.
Specsavers considered that the statement “We offer the best technology at the best prices.” on the “Our Story” section of the advertisers’ website constituted a comparative claim. They did not consider that any substantiation had been provided for the claim, nor had the products being compared to and the basis of their selection been provided. In the circumstances they considered that it was not possible for a consumer to verify the claims being made in the advertising.
Specsavers objected to the statement “We do not own retail shops on the high-street and we don’t advertise on TV or in National Newspapers; this allows us to offer you, our customers, lower prices than our competitors” that appeared on the “Our Story” section of the advertisers’ website on the grounds that there did not appear to be any basis for asserting that the cost of TV or national newspaper advertisements was in some way connected to hearing aid prices offered by competitors. They considered that this was factually inaccurate, dishonest, and misleading.
Blackberry Hearing said that value was the sum of the product and the service and that they offered World leading hearing aid models and excellent customer service which they believed stood out from their competitors. They said that this was not just their view as it was also the view of their customers who had been with other providers previously.
They said that they referred on their website to dozens of independent Facebook testimonials that were all linked to a customers’ own account and were evidently independent. They also said that they referred to their Google reviews which had the highest score in the industry and were all independent customer reviews. They said that the reviews cannot be influenced by them and that at the time of replying they had 5 stars which was the highest They also said that they had many customer video testimonials where customers talked about their experience with Blackberry Hearing and how it compared with their previous experiences.
The advertisers also said that they invest in their customer service and that the hearing aid models they provide are top of the range. They considered that it was their customer care that really differentiated them from their competitors and that it wasn’t just their view, as it was informed by the testimony of their customers and could be viewed by the significant number of independent testimonials to which they linked on their website.
The advertisers said that they firmly believed that the provision of hearing aids was not just about the cost, but also about the service. They said however, that when they do a direct comparison where other suppliers provide prices online, they find that like for like they were more price competitive. They gave as an example of their high-end Widex Evoke 440 hearing aid which they sold at €3598 a pair before grant and said when compared to the only other supplier providing a price on this model, their price was €4398 a pair before the grant. They said they also supplied additional accessories worth €275.
The advertisers advised that they had amended the “About Us” section of the website that had been referred to by the complainants to “We do not own retail shops on the high-street and we don’t advertise on TV or in National Newspapers; this allows us to offer you, our customers, really great hearing solutions at really great prices”.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
Issue 1 - Upheld:
The Complaints Committee noted that the claim to be “Ireland’s Best Hearing Aid Provider” was being made based on customer testimonials and that no independently verified substantiation had been provided for the claim. The Committee referred to Section 4.17 of the Code which stated that testimonials did not constitute substantiation and that opinions expressed in the testimonials should be supported with independent evidence of their accuracy. As the advertisers had not provided any independent evidence of the accuracy of the reviews or substantiation for the claim, the Committee considered that the claim was in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10 and 4.17 of the Code.
Issue 2 - Upheld:
The Complaints Committee noted the Code requirement that a claim that any product was superior to others should only be made where there was clear evidence to support the claim. Wording which implies superior or superlative status – such as, “number one”, “leading”, “largest”, or similar – should be capable of substantiation with market share data or similar proof. (Section 4.33).
The Committee noted that substantiation for the claim ‘offer the best technology’ had not been provided. They also noted that the substantiation for the claim ‘at the best price’ was only one example and, accordingly, constituted insufficient substantiation. They further noted that the price comparison exercise was based where competitors provided online pricing. The Committee considered that where a ‘best price’ claim was made, this should be backed by market wide data.
The Committee considered that the claim to “offer the best technology at the best price” had not been substantiated and was therefore in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10, 4.31, 4.32 and 4.33 of the Code.
Issue 3 - Upheld:
The Complaints Committee noted that the advertisers had amended their website to remove the reference to “lower prices than our competitors”. They Committee also noted however, that the substance of the compliant had not been addressed, that is, that the cost of TV or national newspapers advertisements was connected to hearing aid prices offered by competitors.
In the absence of any evidence for the claim made in the advertising in use at the time of the complaint, the Committee considered that the claim was in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4, 4.9 and 4.10 of the Code.
Action required: The advertising should not appear in its current form.
The Committee noted that the advertisers had made changes to their website. The Committee reminded the advertisers to ensure that they hold evidence for all claims made in their advertising.