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Emma Mattress sale adverts were ‘misleading’

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Adverts for mattress firm Emma were ‘misleading’ and it has been told to ensure future savings claims can be substantiated.

A number of adverts between September and November 2021 on Emma Mattress’ website and on a London Underground poster gave details about its sale. For its king size premium mattress for £637.45, text above stated “45% savings”, and “from £1,159” with the price being crossed out.

In another, it advertised a double Emma Luxe Mattress for £1,039.35 with text above stating “39% savings” and “from £1,728” with that price having a line through it.

There were also issues surrounding its “flash sale up to 50% off” and “Emma’s biggest ever Black Friday sale up to 50% off” adverts.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received three complaints about Emma Matratzen GmbH, from a member of the public and its competitor, Eve Sleep Plc.

They challenged whether the savings claim was misleading, whether the “from” price had been increased and whether the use of a “countdown clock” misleadingly implied the promotion was time-limited.

In its defence, Emma provided a pricing history over a seven-month period, including when the products were on promotion and the percentage discounts that had been applied. It said its pricing history “demonstrated that the savings claim represented a genuine saving against the usual selling price of the product”.

Further, it said it had been “careful to ensure that the advertised product had not been on a promotional offer unduly frequently”, adding that the reference price had fluctuated between £1,059 and £1,229 “because the supplier had increased their prices due to an increase in their own production costs”. As such, “it was no longer feasible to continue selling the product at the previous reference price” and therefore increased it to £1,159.

In total, it had sold 15,392 units, 2,634 at the reference price applicable at the time.

Emma Mattress did admit that its advert should have been clearer in explaining an introductory offer, and accepted that future flash and Black Friday sales should include a start date to make it clearer for potential buyers.

Misleading claims

The ASA upheld all four complaints, stating that consumers would understand the crossed out from price of £1,159 as being a “was” price i.e. the usual selling price of the king size mattress and would expect the lower price to represent a genuine saving against that price. It said the 39% savings line was also misleading as while Emma intended it to be an introductory offer, consumers would consider it to be a discount against the usual selling price.

The ad which displayed a countdown clock with days, hours, minutes and seconds would be taken by shoppers to mean once it reached zero, the products would return to their usual price and the phrase “flash sale” reinforced the impression that it was time-limited.

However, straight after the “flash sale” ended, another sale for new customers started so the ASA said “the countdown clock was therefore likely to pressurise consumers into making a swift transactional decision, including purchasing products, without giving their purchase the due consideration they normally would because of the misleading implication in the ad that the offer would run out at the end of the time period”.

Lastly on Emma’s Black Friday sale, it said that the start and end date of the promotion “was significant information which should have been included in the ad”.

As such, the ads must not appear again in the forms complained about.

The ASA noted: “We told Emma to ensure future savings claims did not mislead and to ensure they substantiated savings claims against the usual selling price of their products.

“We also told them to ensure their introductory offers made clear that the lower price was an introductory price and not a discount against the usual selling price; their ads did not misleadingly imply that discount offers were time-limited, for example by using a countdown clock, if that was not the case; and that significant information about offers, such as the start and end date, was made clear in ads.”

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