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Product: Retail (Supermarket)
Advertiser: Aldi Stores (Ireland) Limited
Medium: Online - Company Website, Television, Various
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 4.1, 4.4, 4.7, 4.9, 4.10, 4.31, 4.32
The Aldi ‘Amazing Savings’ webpage stated:
“Swap and Save
Families across Ireland are taking the Aldi Swap and Save Challenge and discovering some exciting new quality products and making some pretty amazing savings too. They weren’t quite sure what to expect but they had a great time and now, none of them want to go back to their old shopping habits.”
A photograph of one of the families featured in the campaign together with the amount they saved (€384) was featured.
“Now it’s your turn to see if you could save….
Just like our families, you’ll be amazed at what you find when you swap to Aldi. All our fresh meat is 100% Irish. We work with only the best Irish suppliers and are passionate about giving you quality, award winning food that you can trust. There’s so much more to Aldi. So why not come over and see if you could save.”
The television advertisement featured a family discussing the savings they have made by switching their weekly shop to Aldi. Included in the voiceover the family stated:
“In 4 weeks we saved €384 since we switched to Aldi. We got everything we wanted in Aldi, lots of healthy snacks, lots of Irish foods.”
The main voiceover in the advertisement stated “Swap to Aldi and see if you could save.”
Text on screen also stated: “Swap to Aldi and see if you could save.”
The footnote provided details of the dates the family shopped at a previous supermarket and the dates they shopped at Aldi.
Lidl Ireland objected to the advertisement on following grounds.
Lidl said that the advertisers had failed to offer any substantiation for its claims and that the savings amounts had been offered as objective facts of savings, without any supporting evidence.
Lidl said that the failure to make the stated claims in the advertising verifiable by reference to supporting documents impacted on the advertisement’s truthfulness. They contended that consumers had been and would be misled by the advertisement due to the lack of verifiability.
Lidl Ireland said that consumers had been and would be misled by the savings claims as there was a lack of transparency in the advertisement on the products included in the family’s shops.
Lidl Ireland said that consumers had been and would be misled, by the savings claims as there was a lack of transparency in the advertisement on the mechanics of the comparison.
Lidl considered that the advertising was misleading to consumers and as such, unfair with regard to market competition.
Lidl did not consider that it was legitimate to compare one month of shopping at one retailer with a subsequent month at another retailer. They said that the Irish grocery market was very price sensitive with prices and offers varying from month to month. They said that as the advertisement failed to disclose any material information that would allow price-conscious consumers to discern any of the material elements of these comparisons, the basis for the comparison was not clear and ultimately Lidl said that they would submit that it would be absolutely misleading to compare prices in a 4-week period at a competitor with prices in a subsequent 4-week period due to the volatile nature of prices and offers in the grocery sector. The only fair comparison would be like for like comparisons on a particular day (i.e. prices should only be compared on the same day shopped). They said that the comparisons in ALDI’s marketing campaign were not legitimate and were designed to be ambiguous.
Aldi stated that they did not consider that their campaign was in breach of the ASAI Code.
The advertisers said that they were in a position to fully substantiate the claims of savings made in the Campaign and, therefore, there could be no suggestion that the Campaign was not truthful.
Furthermore, they said that they had kept full details of the shops carried out by the participants which substantiated the savings claimed, which they were happy to provide to the ASAI. The advertisers provided the ASAI Executive with copies of receipts for a representative sample of families who participated in the campaign. The representative families had been chosen by the ASAI Executive.
They said that there was no basis whatsoever for Lidl’s claim that Aldi had failed to offer substantiation for their advertising claims.
The advertisers again stated that they were in a position to fully substantiate the savings claims made in the advertising as they had kept full details of the shops carried out by the participants which substantiated the savings claimed. The advertisers provided the ASAI Executive with copies of receipts for a representative sample of families who participated in the campaign. The representative families had been chosen by the ASAI Executive.
Issues 3 and 4:
The advertisers said that the basis on which the Campaign operated was made very clear in the relevant Campaign material (samples of which they had forwarded with their response). They said that the advertising made it clear that participants in the Campaign were asked to do their shopping in their existing supermarket for four weeks and, thereafter, do their shopping for four weeks in Aldi and see whether they made any savings.
As was clear from the Campaign material, the savings claimed referred to the difference in the amount the participants spent in their existing supermarket over a four-week period and the amount they spent in Aldi in the subsequent four-week period.
They said that the advertising was also clear when the shops in the participants’ existing supermarket and Aldi were carried out. Furthermore, the contents of the shops in both the participants' existing supermarket and Aldi were selected solely by the participants themselves with no input from Aldi. Accordingly, insofar as the adverts claim that participants had saved money by shopping in Aldi, these savings were genuinely based, as they were entirely on the participant’s own product choices.
In support of its contention that the Campaign breaches the provision of the Code that states, “Marketing communications should respect the principles of fair competition generally accepted in business.”, the advertisers said that the complainants merely made a bald statement that the Campaign was misleading and, therefore, the complainants deemed it to be unfair with regard to market competition. The advertisers said that they had demonstrated in their response, that the Campaign was not misleading and, therefore, there was no basis for the complainants’ contention that this provision of the ASAI Code had been breached.
The advertisers said that the thrust of Lidl’s claim that this provision of the ASAI Code had been breached appeared to be that a campaign which compared prices in a four-week period at a competitor with a subsequent four-week period at Aldi was misleading due to the volatile nature of prices and offers in the grocery sector. They said that the complaint suggested that the only fair comparison would be a like for like comparisons on a particular day and further suggested that the comparisons in the Campaign were not legitimate and were designed to be ambiguous.
The advertisers said that they did not believe that during the eight-week period during which the shops of the participants in the Campaign took place, the price of its products or those of its competitors would have altered to such an extent as to have any material impact on the savings which the participants in the Campaign claimed and they did not consider that Lidl had furnished any evidence demonstrating otherwise.
Upheld in Part.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
Issue 1 – Not Upheld:
The Committee noted that the advertisers had provided substantiation to the ASAI in relation to the participants two 4-week shopping experiences, including the products purchased. They did not consider that the advertising was in breach of Section 4.9 and 4.10 on the basis suggested in the complaint.
Issue 2 – Upheld:
The Committee considered that the advertising campaign had made it clear that the savings made by the participants were based on the fact that those featured had switched their grocery shopping to Aldi over a specific period of time and was inviting consumers to swap to Aldi where they could also potentially save money on their shopping.
However, the Committee also considered that in the absence of information (either in the advertising or made available on the advertisers’ website) on where the initial 4-week shopping had taken place and on the products purchased, meant that consumers could not verify if the savings advertised were likely to be relevant to them based on their shopping habits.
Such information would, the Committee considered, enable consumers to make an informed decision on whether the savings would be likely to be relevant to them based on their own shopping habits.
As the advertising had not included any such information, or even a direction to the information, the Committee considered that the advertising was misleading by omission and was in breach of Sections 4.1, and 4.4 of the Code.
Issue 3 - Upheld:
The Committee noted the savings claim was not on the basis of individual products, but rather on the basis of the individual family’s shopping experience, with an invitation to others to see if they would have a similar experience, which would be dependent on individual family product choice, brands and needs.
The Committee considered that in the absence of information (either in the advertising or made available on the advertisers’ website) on the products purchased, meant that consumers could not verify if the savings advertised were likely to be relevant to them based on their shopping habits.
In the circumstances, the Committee considered that the advertising was misleading by omission and was therefore in breach of Sections 4.1, and 4.4 of the Code.
Issue 4 – Not Upheld:
The Committee considered that the mechanics of the comparison had been clear, that it was based on the individual family’s shopping experience over two four-week periods, one four-week period based on the family’s usual shopping pattern and the second with the family shopping in the advertisers’ stores.
In the circumstances, the Committee did not consider that there was a lack of transparency in relation to the mechanics of the promotion.
Issue 5 – Not Upheld:
The Complaints Committee noted the Code provision that marketing communications should respect the principles of fair competition generally accepted in business (3.3). The Committee did not consider that a finding that the advertising had breached Section 4.1 related to misleadingness would of itself result in a breach of Section 3.3. In this case, they were of the view that there was no relevant evidence to consider and, accordingly, there was no breach of the Code on the basis suggested in the complaint.
Issue 6 - Upheld:
The Committee noted that the participants featured in the campaign were required to shop at their regular supermarket for 4 weeks followed by 4 weeks shopping at Aldi which had taken place some months before the campaign went live.
They noted that the dates the shopping had taken place had been included in the campaign and that therefore consumers would have been aware when the shopping took place.
However, the Committee considered that there could be price changes in a price sensitive market, between the 8-week period that the shopping took place and the time the campaign went live. They considered that the more time that elapsed, the greater the opportunity there was for price changes.
As the Committee had not seen evidence that there had been no significant price changes nor that the prices had been verified before the campaign aired in order to ensure that savings claim was still accurate, they considered the advertising was in breach of Section 4.1 and 4.4.
Action required: The advertising should not reappear in its current form.
The Committee told the advertisers to ensure that consumers were provided with information on the details of the shops carried out in the campaign, that is, where the participant’s initial 4-week shopping had taken place and information on the products purchased; this could be by providing the information on their website and signposting this in their advertising.