In a decision which will be of interest to all UK advertisers who make price claims in advertising or online, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has ruled that a savings claim made by Sports Direct on its website was misleading because it did not make the basis of the comparison clear.

Sports Direct advertised an Arsenal football shirt on its website for £42, quoting a higher price of £59.99, and saying “You save £17.99”. However, Sports Direct had never sold the product for £59.99. Sports Direct said that the claim was based on the product’s RRP, and provided evidence that the shirt was consistently offered by other retailers in a price range of £55 - £65. However, the ASA considered that consumers would take £59.99 as the price at which Sports Direct itself usually sold the shirt, and that the savings claim was based on that usual selling price. The ASA therefore upheld the complaint.

Price comparisons can be a complex area, with the BIS Pricing Practices Guide including sections on a wide range of different types of comparison. However, as a general rule, most price comparisons that give consumers a real price advantage are permitted, provided the basis of the comparison is made clear. Here, the ASA qualified its decision by saying that “in the absence of any qualification in the ad regarding the basis of that higher price” the claim was misleading. This ruling therefore underlines the importance of making the basis of price comparison claims clear in the ad.