Garden furniture retailer ‘free’ advert deemed as misleading by ASA

An advert by garden furniture retailer Rattan Hut has been deemed as misleading after an offer of free items was challenged.

The adverts, which were seen during a period from 2 June to 6 July 2023 across an email, website, and paid-for Instagram story, misleadingly claimed that items were free despite consumers having to meet a minimum order value to use the voucher codes.

The advert details included:

The website, seen between 2 and 14 June 2023, featured a wheel that consumers could “spin” to receive a prize, one of which was a “FREE EGG CHAIR”. Text stated “HURRAY! YOU HAVE WON A FREE EGG CHAIR. Please apply the voucher code to your basket to automatically claim your gift by the end of today”, followed by a voucher code.

The email, seen on 14 June 2023, stated “[…] you’ve won a gift by spinning the wheel on our website! […] you get to choose from one of three amazing gifts: a free egg chair worth £395.98, a free premium cover set worth £199.99, or a voucher for £150 off your purchase. To claim your chosen gift, all you need to do is enter the coupon code at the basket stage of your order”, followed by a list of codes for each item.

The paid-for Instagram story post, seen on 6 July 2023, featured an image of a cantilever parasol set with a struck-through price of £699.99, underneath which was the word “FREE”. At the bottom of the post was a link to the website in ad (a). A code was provided for consumers to enter at the “basket” stage of their order.

Four complainants, who understood consumers had to meet a minimum order value to use the voucher codes, challenged whether the claims the items in the ads were “free” was misleading.

An investigation into the claims by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that the claims could mean that customers could obtain those items for free from Rattan Hut. However, the ASA understood the items could only be obtained if consumers ordered other item(s) through the Rattan Hut, up to a minimum order value. This was therefore concluded that the claim “free” in the ads was misleading.

AOS Trading Ltd, trading as Rattan Hut, did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.

“The ASA was concerned by Rattan Hut’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future,” the watchdog said.

“The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must not describe a product as “free” if the consumer has to pay anything other than the unavoidable cost of responding and collecting or paying for delivery of the item.

“The ads must not appear again in the form complained of. We told AOS Trading Ltd t/a Rattan Hut not to refer to products as “’free” where consumers had to pay anything other than the unavoidable cost of responding and collecting or paying for delivery of the relevant item. We referred the matter to the CAP Compliance team.”

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