The National Advertising Division (NAD) recently examined Wegmans’ in-store price comparison displays along with the advertising claims “Don’t shop around town…shop at Wegmans and save” and “Who has time to comparison shop? We do. We check hundreds of prices each week so you don’t have to.” The NAD considered whether these claims, along with the displays, implied that certain products are less expensive at Wegmans as compared to a competitor.
Wegmans maintains in-store display boards that compare prices of certain food items sold at Wegmans with products sold at a competitor’s store. The price comparisons identify the items and their prices at each store, based upon weekly store visits. As an initial matter, Wegmans disputed the NAD’s jurisdiction to review its advertising claims on the basis that the price comparisons involved local, in-store displays in a small number of markets. However, NAD determined it had jurisdiction given that Wegmans was a nationwide chain that engaged in national advertising because it advertised throughout a substantial portion of the U.S.
With respect to Wegmans’ price comparison advertising, NAD concluded that the advertiser’s current procedure for competitor price checking and posting was consistent with FTC and NAD precedent. Specifically, it concluded that one week is a reasonable period of time to check on prices to keep them current. However, it recommended the price comparison boards be modified to clearly and conspicuously disclose the date of the price comparison shopping and that prices are subject to change.
NAD noted that the products being compared were not always identical and concluded that, if the competitor sells the identical product, that product should be used as the basis for the price comparison, particularly in food product categories like meat where cut can impact the quality of the product.
NAD determined the claim “Who has time to comparison shop? We do. We check hundreds of prices each week so you don’t have to.” was adequately qualified because it disclosed how and when the company checks competitor prices. However, NAD recommended “Don’t shop around town…shop at Wegmans and save” be modified because it directly contradicted NAD’s recommended qualifier “prices are subject to change”.
TIP: Advertisers have an obligation to update comparative data frequently to ensure that the comparisons remain accurate and current. Advertisers choosing to make price comparisons should ensure they accurately disclose the products being compared, including the basis for the price comparison and any material differences between the products.