Comparing prices with your competitors
20 March 2014
If you are planning on making a price comparison with an identifiable or unidentifiable competitor, you should read rules 3.33 to 3.40 under section 3 of the CAP Code.
Any prices you quote should be accurate and up-to-date. If the comparison becomes inaccurate, because a quoted price has changed, the ASA would expect you to do everything in your power to remove or amend the communication. If your competitors are likely to change their prices quickly you should use media with a short “shelf-life” such as leaflets and daily newspapers. In such cases, we recommend you include the date on which those prices have been checked.
Comparisons with identifiable competitors
When making a comparison with an identifiable competitor, the comparison should be based on products meeting the same need or intended for the same purpose (rule 3.34). In practice this means that you should compare your and your competitor’s most similar product or clearly state the differences between them, so that the basis of the comparison is made clear. You can read more regarding this here.
Importantly, the savings claim must be verifiable (rule 3.35). So, readers should have access to the information on which the comparison is made and the ad should signpost where consumers can read that information. It is likely to be acceptable to refer readers to a web address (which could be included in the small print of an ad) where the results of a report can be found. Please read the following guidance on Comparisons – verifiability for further information
Prices should be consistent between stores. If not, it should be made clear in the communication, the geographical area to which the comparison applies. In general, marketers should make comparisons with retailers in the same locality in order to avoid the risk of any differences in pricing policy.
Promotional v non-promotional
It might be acceptable to compare a non-promotional and a promotional price provided that the basis of the comparison is made quite clear. However, you should be careful that the competition does not have the item on promotion as well, because this could mislead consumers about the price comparison. The quoted prices should be accurate, up to date, and, it is advisable to include the date on which those prices were checked. See the adjudications on Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc, 5 August 2009 and Larnheath Ltd 13 May 2009.
Giving yourself an unrepresentative or unfair advantage?
When making a comparison with an unidentifiable competitor, you must ensure the elements of the comparison are not selected to give you an unrepresentative advantage (rule 3.38). In general, comparing products which significantly differ in size or quality, in order to make the saving appear cheaper than it actually is, might be considered misleading unless those differences are clearly explained.
Lowest price claims
For a “lowest price” or “cheapest” claim to be acceptable you would need to ensure that you have an appropriate price monitoring and adjustment policy to ensure that you will always provide the lowest price, compared to your competitors. A promise to reimburse consumers the difference in price, if they find a product cheaper elsewhere, does not justify a “lowest price” claim, rather it is a “price promise”, the conditions of which should be made clear in the ad. The adjudication on Telecom Plus plc illustrates this. You might also find our guidance on Lowest price claims and promises useful.
Finally, please read our Help Note on Retailers’ price comparisons
If you require bespoke advice on your non-broadcast promotions, contact the CAP Copy Advice team on 0207 492 2100 or submit your enquiry via our website.