ASA rules against misleading Asda comparative price ads

Asda’s attempts to portray itself as the best value supermarket in the UK have suffered a setback after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that one of its comparative price ads was misleading.

The ASA upheld a complaint by Tesco that accused Asda of exaggerating the “representative nature” of a promotion comparing the price of an Asda customer’s shopping basket with those of its four main competitors – Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Safeway and Morrisons.

The ads, which came under Asda’s “low price guarantee” banner and support its much-vaunted “rollback” price cuts, displayed price differences between equivalent items in a randomly selected customer’s shopping basket.

The ASA says problems in finding equivalent items at all four supermarkets meant the comparisons were not representative enough of the chosen shopper’s original choices. The authority says the ads could miss significant categories, such as dairy products, because of problems with availability.

The decision comes three weeks after Asda chief executive Allan Leighton revealed the chain would cut prices – by as much as 20 per cent – to levels similar to those of its US parent Wal-Mart within 18 months.

In the wake of the price cuts, the ASA has issued a warning to supermarkets that claims made in comparative ads must be substantiated to avoid censure.

An ASA spokesman says: “Competitors will be scrutinising companies’ ads, and they have to ensure they have the evidence to back up claims. Otherwise competitors will complain and, where they can not back it up, the ASA will uphold the complaint.”

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