An overly broad price-matching claim by Toys “R” Us should be modified or discontinued, the National Advertising Division recently recommended after a review based on a consumer complaint.

The claim – “Price Match Guarantee – Spot a lower advertised price? We’ll match it. See a Team Member for details” – appeared on in-store banners. A customer attempted to purchase a dice game at Toys “R” Us with a page of competitors’ prices printed from an Internet search. But store employees refused to match the lower prices. Instead, they told him the guarantee only applied to prices posted by Best Buy and the Toys “R” Us Web site, www.toysrus.com. The consumer left the store to make his purchase elsewhere and reported the company.

The terms and conditions stated by the employees were incorrect, Toys “R” Us told the NAD. The company does indeed match competitors’ print ads, but does not match online pricing (with exceptions for its own Web site and certain baby gear competitors). Had the consumer checked with a store manager or looked online, the consumer could have found the accurate terms and conditions, the toy company said. It noted that its conditions are similar – and in many cases less stringent – than competitors like Target.

Toys “R” Us told the self-regulatory body that consumers were also put on notice by the store banner’s “See a Team Member for details” language that the program contains terms and conditions.

But the NAD said that reasonable consumers would not expect that online pricing for competitive pricing would be excluded from the price-matching guarantee. “[T]he disclosure that consumers ‘[s]ee a Team Member for details,’ only to be told that the price-matching does not apply to online competitors’ toy prices, directly contradicts the main message conveyed by a toy store banner reading, ‘Price Match Guarantee – Spot a lower advertised price? We’ll match it,’” the NAD concluded.

While the self-regulatory body acknowledged the limited space on in-store banners, it determined Toys “R” Us’s claim was “overly broad” and it gave the chain two choices: either discontinue the claim entirely or modify the language “to more accurately reflect that the price-match guarantee for toys applies to competitors’ print advertisements. . . . thereby allowing the Team Member to explain other additional price matching and/or other limitations.”

To read the NAD’s press release about the decision, click here.

Why it matters: The NAD found that the Toys “R” Us’s price-match guarantee was overly broad without a statement setting forth the limitations of the offer. Advertisers should remember that appropriate disclaimers must be made even when faced with space constraints like an in-store banner.