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‘Unfair’ John Lewis price match ad banned by watchdog

Written by: Adam Lewis
John Lewis has been reprimanded by the advertising watchdog for a bungled price match promotion on Black Friday after a customer was left 'disappointed' when trying to buy an Apple Watch.

During its Black Friday Event – which took place between 25-28 November – the retailer which is famed for being “never knowingly undersold since 1925” advertised an Apple Watch at £249 in a price match.

The home page stated: “Today we’re matching a competitor’s promotion” and a “shop now” button appeared at the bottom of the page.

However when someone attempted to buy the watch at the price match price the item was listed as out of stock, before appearing the following day at full price. This led to a complaint regarding whether the promotion had been administered fairly.

According to John Lewis Partnership the offer was not a planned promotion but a reactive price match based on competitor activity. However the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled because the term “price match” was used on the home page of it considered that the promotional marketing rules applied, and were subsequently breached.

This is because advertising codes state promoters must conduct their promotions promptly and efficiently and be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants and potential participants. Promoters must also avoid causing unnecessary disappointment.

A statement said: “The ASA considered that the rate at which a product sold was likely to increase when the price was lowered temporarily, and that there would therefore be an increased risk that it would sell out.

“However, while we acknowledged the surrounding circumstances, we considered John Lewis’ action to make a product unavailable on their website while their competitor’s promotion was still running denied online consumers the opportunity to purchase at the Price Match price, despite John Lewis still having stock available.”

As a result the ASA ruled the promotion has not been conducted fairly and resulted in “unnecessary disappointment”. It stated the ad must not appear again in its current form and told John Lewis Partnership to ensure it dealt fairly with consumers in the future.

A spokesperson for John Lewis, said it was happy to sell the watch at the reduced price but it had concerns about availability of stock: “We’re disappointed by the ASA’s decision. We believe this is due to a misunderstanding of the difference between a one day unplanned price match applied because of our Never Knowingly Undersold policy and planned John Lewis four day Black Friday promotions. We are reviewing how we communicate multiple messages about prices and promotions to avoid any possible confusion happening again.

“We had very limited stock and continued to sell the watches in our shops, matching the competitor’s promotion for the one day that it ran. Removing stock from sale is not a decision we would take lightly.”

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