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Carphone Warehouse whipped for cheap Jesus mobe ads

ASA: The important stuff was in the fine print

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Carphone Warehouse has been smacked down by the Advertising Standards Authority for claiming that it had the lowest price in the country on the iPhone 4.

One complaint was made about the ads, which were headlined: "iPhone 4. UK's lowest price". The complainant said the headline was misleading because she'd found lower prices for the phone elsewhere.

It turns out the phone shop meant it had the lowest price when compared to the published prices of other authorised Apple retailers and networks checked on a specific date if they offered the exact same tariff and were therefore comparable on Pay As You Go – admittedly, not quite as snappy a tagline. Oh, and if you found an unpublished better price elsewhere, they'd match it, so that took care of that.

The ASA disagreed though, saying that, in the first place, there weren't all that many comparable prices, particularly at the cheaper end of the scale:

The Carphone Warehouse (TCW) handset prices were sometimes more expensive and that some competitors offered pay monthly tariffs, particularly at the lower end of the price spectrum, which did not appear to be available for handsets purchased via TCW and therefore did not allow for a “lowest price” comparison on those tariffs.

Where prices could be compared, they were sometimes cheaper, but often they were the same price or higher, the ASA said, adding that Joe Public was likely to view the claim of "lowest price" to mean less than competitors, not the same as.

The authority also pointed out that the retailer had only looked at Jesus mobe 16GB, ignoring the 32GB version, while the ad mentioned iPhones in general.

Another complainant talking about the same ad said the fact that the advert had the price £13.99 on it in the small print could make you think that's what price the iPhone was per month, even though it said "Service plan instore" beside it.

TCW said it was clear that a 'service plan' was an insurance add-on and not a synonym for tariff, price plan or line rental. But the ASA said that as it was the only price on the advert and because the ad referred to a "specified tariff" without specifying it, you could mistakenly think that a shiny new fruity mobile could be yours for £13.99 a month.

The ads can't appear again and the ASA told Carphone Warehouse to make sure it held "adequate substantiation" for its future price claims. ®

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