Amazon under fire over ‘misleading’ delivery charges

A new ruling by the ASA has banned two of Amazon’s delivery ads, deeming them unclear and “misleading” to customers.


UPDATE 25 OCTOBER 2017: The Advertising Standards Authority has now reversed part of its ruling against Amazon after an appeal by the retailer. On the complaint about whether Amazon made its delivery charges “sufficiently clear”, the ASA now says that “because the ads made clear that a delivery charge would be payable (unless certain criteria were met) we concluded the ads were not misleading and did not breach the code”.

On the second complaint about if Amazon made it “sufficiently clear the terms under which the item would be eligible for free delivery” the ASA upheld its ruling against Amazon.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned two Amazon ads, following an investigation into two issues concerning “misleading” delivery charges.

The issue surrounds ads seen on 12 July 2015 and relate to the delivery charges for an electronic product sold by AmazonBasics. Both ads offered ‘free UK delivery’ for orders of more than £20.

The complainant said the ads were misleading as they did not make the delivery charges clear or clarify which item would be available for UK delivery. Having added a second item to their basket, which offered free UK delivery and took their order to over £20, the complainant was led to believe that they had qualified for free delivery for both items.

Amazon told the ASA that “it was impossible” to state the specific delivery charge on product pages as the charge depends on a number of factors, including whether the items would be dispatched by Amazon, a Marketplace seller or a combination of the two. According to the ecommerce business, other factors impacting ads include the total weight of the products, the type of products and whether the customer had reached the £20 minimum spend required on “eligible items.”

A lack of clarification has put Amazon in hot water with the ASA in the past. In March 2015, the company was penalised for its ad on Amazon Prime, which claimed customers could experience the premium service for free for 30 days. Customers were not happy when after the 30 days Amazon pocketed £79, as they believed the ad had not made clear that there would be an automatic renewal.

A spokesperson from Amazon told Marketing Week: “We offer a wide-range of delivery options and ensure that any charges are clearly visible so our customers can make an informed choice before they decide to make a purchase.”

However, Amazon’s reasoning was not enough and the ASA has ruled against the company on this occasion.

“We considered that both the search listing and product page made clear that consumers who wished to purchase the product would be charged for delivery unless their order met certain criteria, though we noted that neither the search listing nor the product page stated the delivery charge for the product,” the ASA states.

The ASA was concerned that customers could only view the cost for delivery after the product had been added to their basket and that the delivery cost might affect whether the customer buys from a different seller on Amazon’s website.

“We concluded the ads did not make sufficiently clear which items were eligible for free delivery, and under what terms, and that they were therefore misleading,” the ASA says.

The ruling states that the ads must not appear in the form complained about again. In the future, Amazon must ensure that a delivery charge is applied to a product featured in an ad, which quotes a price for the advertised product. In addition, when highlighting that items are available for free delivery, the claims used to communicate the offer must not mislead consumers.

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