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Victoria Plum - why don't you just behave?

Victoria Plum 725 x 500

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) this week upheld yet another complaint against Victoria Plum, this time based on a complaint from Bathstore dating back to September 2015. On this occasion, now the third complaint to be upheld against the company in 2016, Victoria Plum decided it would be a good idea to claim that their prices were ‘Up to 40% cheaper than their major competitor Bathstore’.

This claim was featured in a Victoria Plum TV advert that aired on 25th September 2015 and backed up by their website that said ‘It’s official, our prices are up to 40% lower than Bathstore’. In their terms and conditions, they stated that this claim was backed up by an ‘independent price check on comparable products’, which they posted on their website for a short period. Read our Insight DIY news article from the time here.

An impactful message, one that would clearly resonate with consumers and one which would have helped at the time to cement their position as a low price retailer of bathroom products. The only problem with this claim was that it wasn’t actually true, as only 176 of the 2,300 comparable products were used to substantiate their 40% cheaper claim.

 /live/news/wysiwyg/Victoria Plum Price Comparison 450.jpg

Bathstore went straight to the ASA with a complaint stating that the adverts were misleading and could not be substantiated and the ASA agreed, ruling the following:-

"We understood that Victoria Plum’s website listed thousands of bathroom products, therefore 176 items represented a very small proportion of items overall. We considered that this number of products which Victoria Plum said was up to 40% cheaper than Bathstore was likely to contradict the overall impression created by the ads that a significant proportion of products would be cheaper than Bathstore at the quoted saving.

Because Victoria Plum’s ads suggested a significant proportion of their products were lower in price than comparable products from Bathstore, which was not the case, we concluded the claims were misleading and had not been substantiated". Read the full ASA ruling here

Here’s a list of the other most recent complaints against Victoria Plum, upheld by the ASA.

26th February 2014 - A complainant challenged Victoria Plum's pre-sale retail prices as part of an Autumn Savings Event, claiming that the "was" prices were misleading, because they understood that the advertised products had not been sold for those prices previously. Victoria Plum Ltd said the prices were genuine, however, they did not provide documentary evidence to the ASA to support this. The complaint was upheld against Victoria Plum and it was ruled that the advert must not appear again in its current form. Read the detail on this ruling here.

2nd March 2016 - Two complaints were received by the ASA. The first from a consumer claiming that pricing was misleading and could not be substantiated. The second from a retail competitor challenging the Victoria Plum claim in online adverts and on their website that they were the 'No.1 online bathroom retailer'. The ASA investigated both complaints and upheld both, ruling that Victoria Plum had breached the CAP code relating to misleading advertising and that they couldn't substantiate their claim to be the No.1 retailer either through the company accounts or Google search data that was provided. Read the detail on this ruling here

20th April 2016 -  A complaint was received relating to Victoria Plum's 'Up to 60% off promotion seen on their website on 9th December 2015. The ASA investigated a number of specific lines and found that 90% of sales occurred at the discounted price and that only 10% had occurred at the higher 'pre-sale' price. The ASA ruled yet again that Victoria Plum had breached the CAP code relating to misleading advertising and ruled that the advert must not appear again in its current form. The ASA also told Victoria Plum Ltd to ensure future savings claims did not mislead about the benefit available. Read the detail on this ruling here.

On the ASA website, they state the following “Our purpose is to make advertisements responsible and our ambition is to make every UK ad a responsible ad”. For more detail on the purpose and strategy of the ASA, check out their website hereThe guys at the ASA are of course very busy policing the entire UK advertising industry, but yet another small slap for Victoria Plum from this toothless organisation, is unlikely to have any effect.

In our view, this is not a complicated problem, if a retailer attempts to make a comparison against another retailer, then surely, there must be an effective process where this is approved beforehand, not just a meaningless slap on the wrist, months after the event, once the damage has been done.

Let’s be honest, what Victoria Plum are doing with their incorrect comparisons with competitors, they’re false claims of being the UK’s No.1 online bathroom retailer and creating false retail prices to create deep discount sales, is fundamentally wrong. Even when the ASA upholds a complaint against a retailer, how many consumers are actually aware of this and would the bathroom industry even be aware, if it wasn’t for the work of media websites who find this stuff?

Retailers acting this way are conning consumers into buying from their businesses and in the process damaging other retailers reputations. In our view, they should be banned from advertising for a set period or forced to publish a high profile apology on the homepage of their website, which should stay in place for at least a month.

For over a year, every day we’ve been tracking the retail prices, of every single product featured on the Victoria Plum, Bathstore, B&Q, Homebase, Wickes, Better Bathrooms.com, Bathrooms.com, Argos and Cheapsuites websites. We supplement this by tracking daily the headline promotional activity, the consumer reviews and a fortnightly summary of the number of products featured within every retailers bathroom category and individual product groups.

This growing catalogue of information and data is providing a fascinating magnifying glass on the bathroom industry in a way that has never been done before. Over the coming weeks and months we plan to share more of this data with everyone and provide fascinating insights into retailers' pricing and promotional behaviour.

In the meantime, here's a suggestion for you Victoria Plum, why don’t you just play fairly and behave? After all, big brother is watching you now.

Source: Steve Collinge - MD Insight Retail Group Ltd.

For more information on the Insight DIY retailer price, range and review monitoring services, click here.

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03 June 2016

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