Ad watchdog barks at Comet

Comet has fallen foul of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after being grassed up by rival DSG Retail.

The tech store had its wrists slapped after it put out a brochure, which claimed
“Online prices in store now. Please ask in store for details”.

And in case consumers missed this, it used the same claims on each double page spread, adding: “Prices checked daily”.

The bottom of each page stated: “Prices and offers correct at time of going to press. Prices and offers may vary. Ask in-store for details. Offers valid from 17 February 2011”.

It continued to brag. claiming at one point: “Save £150. £89.99 was £239.99 Panasonic 12 MP digital camera … Model DMC-FS9EB-K … Only at Comet”.

However, it was its “prices checked daily” claims that proved to be its kryptonite after nemesis DSG went crying to the ASA claiming that this was misleading. It said that the statement implied that Comet checked the online prices of all competitors but had ignored prices offered by Dixons Retail.

And the public also ganged up on the company, with one guy challenging whether the claim “Save £150. £89.99 was £239.99” was misleading and exaggerated the saving. This was because he believed that Comet had used the “exclusive nature of the product to set an unrealistic RRP.”

Of course Comet tried to fight back claiming that its reference to “Online prices in store now” in conjunction with “Prices checked daily” referred to the fact that it used an automated price checking system. It said that its online prices were checked against argos.co.uk, johnlewis.co.uk, tesco.co.uk, currys.co.uk, pcworld.co.uk and other online retailers and tried to claim that the “Please ask in store for details”, was a disclaimer against any problems that arose.

However it admitted that the Dixons website was not considered in the price match.

Hitting back at the public it said that the DMC-FS9 was a model that was exclusive to the company, and claimed that the model the complainant had viewed on the Panasonic website was not the same as the DMC-FS9.

To try and make its point it gave the ASA evidence including the price history of the DMC-FS9. This showed that the product was originally available at £239.99 for 21 days. It was then reduced to £99.99 for 40 days, before being increased to £101.11 for 16 days. The price was then reduced to £89.99 and remained at that price for 49 days.

However, it bowed down and admitted that the exaggerated price saving shown in the ad had “been the result of human error”.

This did nothing to appease the watchdog that ruled that the claims were misleading. It said that as a result the ad must not appear again in its current form. Comet was also ordered to make clear the basis of any price comparison with competitors, or their own previous prices in the future.