ASA upholds complaint against Lidl's over-large discount claims

United Kingdom

The ASA has upheld a complaint against Lidl, made by Aldi, that a series of eye-catching savings claims, based on recommended retail prices (“RRPs”), were misleading. Despite Lidl providing evidence that the RRPs were genuine, and of third-party retailers offering the products at the RRPs, this was not enough to satisfy the requirement that the reference price must be a price at which the product was generally sold.

The claims

In April and May 2020 Lidl made various price claims in press advertising, on their website and in leaflets. All of the claims were comparisons with RRPs, for example:

  • a Kenwood Electric Juicer with a price of £14.99 and an RRP of £32.99;

  • a Salter Toastie Maker with a price of £14.99 and an RRP of £49.99;

  • Skullcandy Uproar Wireless On-Ear Headphones with a price of £19.99 and an RRP of £44.99.

Aldi’s complaint

Aldi, who believed that the quoted RRPs differed significantly from the prices at which the items were generally sold, challenged whether the claims were misleading.

Lidl’s response

Lidl said that the RRPs were based on information provided by manufacturers. They provided screenshots from manufacturers’ and competitors’ websites showing RRPs around those claimed, and evidence from September that showed some products had continued to be sold at the same RRPs by third parties after Lidl had stopped stocking them.

Guidance on using RRPs in savings claims

Lidl said they had followed the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s Guidance for Traders on Pricing Practices. The Committee on Advertising Practice has also issued guidance on the use of RRPs in price claims. While neither of these guidance notes are binding, the ASA takes them both into account when considering complaints about price claims.

Between them, the guidance notes emphasise some key points:

  • Traders must take extra care when using RRPs to ensure that they do not mislead consumers.

  • Traders using an RRP as a reference price must be able to demonstrate that the product was generally sold at that price.

  • An RRP quoted by a manufacturer is unlikely on its own to establish that products were actually sold at the RRP.

The ASA’s ruling

The ASA upheld the complaints in relation to all of the price claims. In one case, the product was no longer on the market, so it was incapable of being generally sold at the RRP. In other cases, Lidl provided only one or two examples of the product being offered at the RRP by anyone other than the manufacturer.

The ASA concluded that this was inadequate to demonstrate that the products were generally sold at the RRPs claimed in the ads.

Comment

Price claims are a complex area, where legislation, codes of practice and several different guidance notes must all be considered. In particular, as the CTSI guidance notes, the use of RRPs is contentious.

It is notable that the complaint was upheld even though Lidl was able to provide at least some examples of third-party retailers offering the product at the RRP. However, the fact that a product is offered at a price does not mean that the product was generally sold at that price. Advertisers should note that being able to provide a few examples of a product being offered at an RRP, even by retailers other than the manufacturer, may not substantiate a savings claim based on that RRP.