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Currys ‘buy now pay later’ ad banned

Written by: Emma Lunn
Viewers complained that the Christmas advert encouraged the use of credit to fund excessive spending on Christmas at a time when many people were struggling financially.

Five people complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), challenging whether the ad was irresponsible.

The TV ad for Currys PC World was broadcast between 5 and 14 December 2020.

The first part of the ad, featuring people responding unenthusiastically to products such as a stuffed toy, a chess set and wireless headphones, juxtaposed the second part which showed people opening Christmas presents including a Lenovo branded box, a Google Nest mini, a Nintendo console and an LG OLED TV, and excitedly saying “oooh!”.

In between, a woman who appeared to have already selected her family’s Christmas presents was offered the optional buy now pay later (BNPL) payment method, and she smiled and said “oooh”.

A voiceover said: “Give everyone you love a little ‘oooh’ this Christmas. Buy now, pay nothing for six months. At Currys PC World”,

On-screen text stated: “Pay nothing for 6 months. 24.9% APR representative (variable)”.

The ASA upheld the complaint.

It considered the combination of the sequence of those scenes and the voice-over statement would lead viewers to understand that the dissatisfied individuals in the first part of the ad had not used a ‘pay later’ method to buy items; but that the gifts shown in the second part of the ad had been purchased using the ‘pay later’ credit option.

The ASA said: “We considered that the ad suggested the initial Christmas gift choices purchased without ‘pay later’ credit in the first part of the ad were unsatisfactory, because the gift-givers expressed disappointment or frustration.

“In contrast, the products gifted in the second part of the ad were generally more expensive and luxurious than those which featured in the first part, and received very positive reactions.

“Therefore we considered the ad’s messaging explicitly connected the use of a form of credit with deferred payment to buying more expensive gifts, and making people’s loved ones happy with their presents at Christmas as a result.”

The ASA pointed out that the ad was broadcast during a global pandemic and the associated financial difficulties for many people. It concluded the ad irresponsibly encouraged the use of credit to finance excessive spending on Christmas gifts, and was in breach of the advertising code regarding irresponsible advertising.

DSG Retail Ltd, Currys parent company, said it believed consumers were likely to understand that the ad was promoting its finance package, which was an option to pay for purchases within six months with no interest payable.

It considered the ad was likely to be interpreted as referring to the benefits of BNPL, rather than encouraging consumers in financial difficulty to make excessive purchases through credit without careful consideration.

It said the ad was not shot with the intention of targeting vulnerable groups who could be perceived as struggling financially, using BNPL to finance goods which they could not afford.

DSG claimed that more than 50% of customers who selected BNPL as a payment option paid off the full balance within the promotional period. It also said that all 15,000 frontline staff were trained to sell credit responsibly and compliantly, and to recognise vulnerable customers.

The ASA said the ad must not be broadcast again in the format complained about.

It also told DSG to ensure that future ads didn’t irresponsibly encourage excessive spending through the use of credit, particularly in relation to purchasing higher value Christmas gifts with a ‘pay later’ payment method.

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