Tesco Brand Guarantee ASA

The ASA has told Tesco to clarify its future advertising after upholding a complaint from Sainsbury’s.

The ruling follows a Sainsbury’s claim that an ad for Tesco’s Brand Guarantee in the national press was misleading.

The ad appeared last October with the headline ‘Never pay more for your branded shop’. The text stated: ‘If it’s cheaper at Asda, Morrisons or Sainsbury’s, we’ll take the money off your bill at the till.’

The ad included an image of the Homepride Fred character holding an icon that carried the text ‘Brand Guarantee’ while the small print stated ‘Min. basket of 10 different products, including 1 comparable branded product. Total price of branded grocery shop compared with Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s and if cheaper elsewhere the difference will be taken off your bill.’

Sainsbury’s alleged the ad did not make the minimum purchase restriction sufficiently clear, and questioned whether the claim ‘Never pay more for your branded shop’ was misleading.

The challenge was upheld by the ASA, which said consumers were familiar with price match schemes but not necessarily with the conditions involved, or that there might be a minimum purchase requirement, in particular if an ad suggested otherwise.

The authority said it was important for retailers to communicate clearly to consumers how schemes operated.

“We acknowledged Tesco had consulted the Copy Advice team, whose view was that it was likely to be acceptable to set the minimum purchase requirement out in small print.

“The ad included a single brand character, a prominent reference to the Brand Guarantee and the text ‘branded shop’. We considered it was clear the scheme related only to branded, as opposed to own-brand, items.

“However, we also considered it was not sufficiently clear from the main body of the ad that it was necessary to buy multiple products in order to qualify.

“In addition, we considered ‘Never pay more for your branded shop’ was an absolute claim that was likely to be understood by consumers to mean that if they purchased branded good(s), they would qualify for the price match against the named retailers.

“While the small print said it was necessary to purchase at least 10 different items, including one comparable branded product, for the Brand Guarantee to apply, we considered that contradicted the headline claim and was not sufficiently prominent to counteract the misleading impression created by it. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.’

The ASA said the ad must not appear again and told Tesco to ensure significant conditions were made clear in future to avoid being misleading.

Tesco had told the ASA it believed the ad communicated the scheme clearly and was consistent with the industry’s wider approach to price match advertising. It thought consumers were familiar with the concept and the usual need for a minimum spend and that the combination of the text and the Brand Guarantee logo showed the ad related to a price match scheme for branded products being matched against the other supermarkets.

It accepted that the minimum purchase requirement should be brought to consumers’ attention but believed it was sufficient to do so in small print.

A Tesco spokesman said: “We are pleased Brand Guarantee has proven so popular since its launch. We’ve listened to customer feedback and have already changed the layout of our adverts where necessary. There won’t be any changes to Brand Guarantee as a result of this decision.”