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Play.com pestered to back up price claims

ASA repeats call to justify discount shoutings

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Online music retailer Play.com has been criticised by the UK's advertising watchdog for the second time in a year for claims about the savings it offers. The company has been told not to repeat the claims.

Play.com last year published adverts in the national press claiming that it offered discounts of up to 50 per cent on new album releases. The savings were based on recommended retail prices (RRPs) for the albums of £15.99.

The ASA said that Play.com did not have enough evidence that the albums were actually on sale for £15.99 at the time of the adverts. It said that the retailer had broken its rules on the substantiation of claims and on price comparisons.

Last April Play.com was warned about its use of RRPs. It was censured then for advertising RRPs for products which were not yet on release, and was told not to do so again. The ASA said that it had done so.

"Because the albums by Glasvegas, Roots Manuva, The Automatic and The Verve were not on general release at the time the ads appeared, we concluded that the RRPs, and therefore the 'savings' based on those RRPs, were unsubstantiated, because they could not reflect the prices at which the products were generally sold," said the ruling.

The ASA said that it had reiterated its demand to Play.com that it not use unsubstantiated RRP figures in its advertising.

"We reminded Play not to use RRPs when advertising products not yet on general release and told them to ensure that they held robust substantiation, before making a claim, that price comparisons reflected the price at which the product was generally sold," said the ASA ruling.

Play.com had said that in some cases the RRP was the manufacturer's list price, and that it genuinely believed them to be the prices at which albums were on sale in other outlets.

Play.com also said that it had changed its policies after last April's ruling so that RRPs were not used for music that had not yet been released. It said that there had been an error in the current case and that it had taken steps to prevent it from happening again.

A spokeswoman for the ASA said that it had not been the case that Play.com had ignored the ASA's earlier ruling, and that the problems in each case had been different.

She said that if a company persistently ignored its rulings it would be reported to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) which would take further action. Ryanair was reported to the OFT on those grounds last year, she said.

The spokeswoman said that it was not likely that action against Play.com would be escalated in that way.

See: The ruling

Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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