Furniture retailer delivery claims deemed as misleading

Furniture retailer Furniture Village has seen one of its adverts featuring delivery claims deemed as misleading.

The advert, seen on 14 November 2021 on its website, featured the claim “Expected in 21 days” next to an icon of a van on two product listings.

When clicked on the claim, users were taken to a ‘Delivery’ page which included text that stated, “Please note that our estimated delivery times are given in good faith, based on the best information we have. Like every other UK retailer, we are temporarily experiencing delays to some customer orders, due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic and the nationwide shortage of HGV drivers”.

A single complainant reported the ad to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after not receiving the products within 21 days and challenged whether the “Expected in 21 days” claims were misleading and could be substantiated.

In response, Furniture Village said they closely monitored the proportion of orders fulfilled on time and frequently adjusted the timeframe quoted on each product listing on their website to ensure that it was accurate.

For both of the products ordered by the complainant, they provided us with a record of every order placed in the six months leading up to 15 November 2021. It included the date that each order was placed, the delivery date quoted to customers after purchase, and the actual date of delivery. They added that both products were sourced from the same supplier and provided a chart that showed the average delivery timeframe for orders from that supplier was 3.5 weeks in the week the complainant placed their order, and 3.8 weeks the following week.

Furniture Village said that the global supply chain crisis had contributed to disruption and delays on the delivery of certain products. They believed that being transparent about such difficulties was important and referred to the linked text accompanying the “Expected in 21 days” claims. That text had been included to manage consumers’ expectations by informing them that the quoted delivery timeframes were estimates only, and that some orders could be delayed due to the disruption.

They acknowledged that the delivery of the complainant’s order had been significantly delayed. They said that, shortly after the order was received on 14 November 2021, the supplier of both products had notified them that one of the products was temporarily unavailable in the customer’s chosen fabric. They stated that they had contacted the complainant in December and emailed them in January to update them with revised delivery times.

They said the information they had provided showed that the majority of orders were delivered sooner than the timeframes stated on their website, but believed that their communications with the complainant demonstrated that they had a robust process in place to notify customers of unforeseen delays.

Following an investigation by the ASA, it considered that the claim gave the impression that the products would be delivered within 21 days, barring unforeseen circumstances outside of Furniture Village’s control. However, the ASA also considered that consumers would expect estimated delivery timeframes to take account of any ongoing disruption.

A report, which upheld the claim, said: “We accepted that the less prominent qualifying text, that referred to “delays to some … orders”, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and HGV driver shortage, slightly mitigated the impression given by the main claim. However, we further considered that, if the disruption had meant a significant proportion of orders were delayed beyond the quoted timeframe, the qualifying text would be insufficient to counter the impression given by the main claim.

“We referred to the data that Furniture Village provided regarding their delivery performance. We first noted that the delivery dates quoted to customers post-purchase were frequently significantly later than 21 days after the order was placed and therefore were not in line with the timeframe stated on the website.

“Notwithstanding that, the data showed that, for one of the products, 44% of orders placed in the six months up to 15 November 2021 were delivered later than the date given after purchase. In the case of the other, 30% of orders placed during the same period were delivered after that date.

“We considered those figures indicated that a large proportion of orders had been delayed beyond the timeframe provided to customers after purchase, and therefore in many cases even further beyond the delivery timeframe stated on the website. This suggested that the complainant’s experience was relatively common.

“Because Furniture Village had not provided adequate evidence to substantiate the “Expected in 21 days” claims, we concluded they were misleading.

“We told Furniture Village Ltd to ensure their ads did not include misleading delivery claims or mislead by including qualifications that were insufficient to counter the ad’s overall impression.”

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