Tesco decides not to change ‘Brand Guarantee’ price match scheme despite criticism of ‘misleading’ ads

A Tesco ‘Brand Guarantee’ ad that stated customers would “Never pay more” for their branded shop has been banned by the ASA for being ‘misleading’ and ‘unclear’. But while Tesco has since made changes to its print ads it has decided not to alter its price match scheme.

The national press ad for Tesco, which was published in October 2015, was headlined ‘Never pay more for your branded shop’. The text below stated ‘If it’s cheaper at Asda, Morrisons or Sainsbury’s, we’ll take the money off your bill at the till’. It also featured a character holding an icon that carried the text ‘Brand Guarantee’.

The small print, however, stated: “Minimum basket of 10 different products, including one comparable branded product. Total price of branded grocery shop compared with Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s and if cheaper elsewhere the difference will be taken off your bill.”

The ad was investigated after a complaint from Sainsbury’s. It argued that the ad did not make the minimum purchase restriction sufficiently clear and challenged whether the claim “Never pay more for your branded shop” was misleading.

Tesco responds

Tesco argued the ad communicated the scheme clearly to consumers and was consistent with the industry’s wider approach to price match advertising. The supermarket believed the ad made clear that a “branded shop” was made up of multiple products, which was something consumers were already familiar with.

The supermarket also said the first part of the small print made clear what qualified as a branded shop and informed consumers where they could find further information. It accepted that the minimum purchase requirement was a condition that should be brought to consumers’ attention, but believed it was sufficient to do so in small print.

ASA’s verdict

While the ASA believed that consumers were likely to be familiar with the concept of price match schemes, they would not necessarily be aware of the conditions involved or that a minimum purchase might be required.

The body stated it was not sufficiently clear from the main body of the ad that it was necessary to buy multiple products in order to qualify. In addition, it considered “Never pay more for your branded shop” was an absolute claim that was likely to be understood by consumers to mean that if they purchased branded goods, they would qualify for the price match against the named retailers.

The ASA said: “While the small print said it was necessary to purchase at least 10 different items, including one comparable branded product, for the Brand Guarantee to apply, we considered that contradicted the headline claim and was not sufficiently prominent to counteract the misleading impression created by it. We therefore concluded the ad was misleading.”

It has since instructed Tesco to change the ad to ensure significant conditions were made clear in future to avoid being misleading.

A Tesco spokesman told Marketing Week the brand was disappointed with the ASA’s ruling as it had been through “preclearance processes” before launching the campaign. While it has since made changes to its print adverts, it hasn’t changed the scheme itself.

He said: “We are pleased Brand Guarantee has proven so popular since its launch. We’ve listened to customer feedback and have already changed the layout of our adverts where necessary. There won’t be any changes to Brand Guarantee as a result of this decision.”

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