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Product: Household (Furniture)
Advertiser: Designers Rebellion
Medium: Online - Company Website
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4c, 4.1, 4.4, 4.9
The website www.voga.com related to an online furniture retailer. The advertising for the “Artichoke Lamp” featured photographs of the product. A banner at the top of the webpage stated “SUPER SALE: CELEBRITY FAVOURITES 40% OFF EVERYTHING ENDS IN 3D:9H:56M:5S”. There were two prices indicated: Price for original 922€ (with the price crossed out) and VOGA price 559€. There were also options provided to choose different colours and different sizes.
Beside the text ADD TO CART, a drop down allowed customers choose the number of items they wished to order. Below this option text stated ITEMS LEFT:4 alongside a countdown clock (reflecting the information in the banner) underneath.
The complainant raised a number of issues about the website. He purchased a ceiling light and said that:
1. The website indicated for the product he wished to purchase that “ITEMS LEFT: 4”. He considered that this indicated that there were 4 items in stock. However on completing the purchase, he discovered that the product was manufactured to order and shipped from China to a warehouse in Dublin.
2. He said that it was not made clear until after payment that there was no delivery by the company to the customer, only to the Dublin warehouse referenced.
3. Finally he said that the terms and conditions which he described as punitive were not accessible during the checkout process and were only available through a search on the website.
1. The advertisers explained that they accumulated product orders in order to optimise pricing and that the “Items Left” feature explained to customers when the next order for the specific product in view would take place. They said that one of their key selling points was that they tried to pass every saving onto customers, and they had optimized the business over years in order to be able to produce as effectively as possible.
They said that an expandable comment box which was visible when the cursor hovered over it clearly explained the logic behind the Items Left – the number of products that remained to be ordered before the batch of products was manufactured and shipped. They said that it was never intended to imply that the items were in stock and considered that the expandable comment box supported this.
They said that from time to time they did have a clearance section with a subsequent promotion with in-stock items for which they would have specific marketing and advertising, making it absolutely clear that those items were in stock.
In order to make it even clearer to their customers they said they had amended their website, making the information icon more visible and removing the counter (countdown clock) that related to the promotion.
The advertisers said that they did not see anything misleading in the display of their information and their aim was to provide all details available to them within the space available to them. They said that for display and aesthetic purposes, they needed to optimise the space available, but never at the expense of hiding anything.
They said that they would add a redesigned counter for the weekly promotion but detach it from the Items Left section to avoid any confusion.
The advertisers pointed out that the complainant was informed immediately in the confirmation email they received of the production times and process, which they said demonstrated that they were as transparent and as communicative as they could be.
2. In relation to the complainant’s issue concerning delivery, they said that they did not charge any fee for shipping during the process nor had they displayed any delivery charges on their website. They said that their terms and conditions were very clear in relation to the fact that in countries where they did not offer shipping facilities, customers would have to arrange their own collection, or use the options available from their warehouse provider. In markets where they do offer shipping they offered shipping rates, displayed them appropriately and collected the money for them. They said that these facts were displayed on the invoice and confirmed at time of purchase (confirmation email).
3. They did not agree with the complainant’s view that their terms and conditions were ‘punitive’. They said that they were in line with many other retailers and in order to offer competitive pricing they needed to optimise their business and eliminate interactions within the process. They said that:
• their terms and conditions were very specific and clear and available at the checkout.
• all orders, (other than clearance items which were fully refundable right away with immediate delivery), were made to order.
• they kept customers fully informed of the process from the confirmation e-mail they received to the arrival of their product.
• there was a “Track my order” function within the website that allowed customers follow up on the progress of their order at any time.
• they sent reminders to customers whose orders arrive weekly.
In conclusion the advertisers said they believed themselves to be a very communicative company who followed their standard procedures and that these procedures were available to their customers through their terms and conditions.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
1. The Committee did not consider that it was clear the Item Left information related to the number of each item that needed to be ordered before a batch of the product would be manufactured. They considered that consumers would be more familiar with the concept of such information relating to the number of products currently in stock. This impression would in the Committee’s view be reinforced by the presence of the countdown counter alongside the fact that the offer was referred to as a ‘super sale’. The Committee considered the advertising to be in breach of Sections, 4.1, 4.4, and 4.9 of the Code.
The complaint was upheld.
2. The Committee noted that the terms and conditions provided information about delivery of items to a Dublin warehouse. They were concerned however at the lack of information in relation to delivery on the product page as they considered delivery services were normally provided (either as part of the costs or at an additional fee) when purchasing through online retail services. The Committee considered that the lack of this information on the product page was likely to mislead consumers. The Committee considered the advertising to be in breach of Sections, 4.1, 4.4, and 4.9 of the Code.
The complaint was upheld.
3. The Committee noted that while the Terms and Conditions were outlined on the website that they were not easily accessible to consumers. They informed the advertisers that any main terms and conditions which may influence a consumer’s decision to purchase an item should be hyperlinked from within the advertisement for the product. The Committee considered the advertising to be in breach of Sections, 4.1, 4.4, and 4.9 of the Code.
The complaint was upheld.
ACTION REQUIRED: The advertising should not run in the same format again and the advertisers’ website should be amended in accordance with the Complaints Committee’s adjudication.