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Groupon still on ASA naughty step with more complaints upheld

Too many boobs in e-coupon site's basket

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Groupon has yet again been busted by the Advertising Standards Authority for misleading customers with separate promotions on its website.

This brings the grand total of complaints brought against the e-coupon outfit to 50 for the year, and 2011 isn't even over yet.

MyCityDeal Ltd, which trades as Groupon, was told that claims one of its ads made about breast enhancement were misleading, because it wrongly made punters believe that boob growth was possible in most cases.

It first appeared on Groupon's site on 31 August and was headed "Six Sessions of IBE Breast Enhancement for £99 at Beautopia Spa (£1,200 value)".

Text below that stated: "Highlights, Microbeam energy technology, Designed to lift or enhance breasts, Discretion and confidentiality assured."

The ad claimed that customers would achieve typical growth of between a quarter and two cup sizes within five to six weeks, the ASA said in its ruling.

"We noted that the ad included a disclaimer that individual results may vary, and that Groupon said they had based the claim on previous results attained by the spa," the watchdog added.

"However, we considered that patient data for six patients, provided by the spa carrying out the treatments, was not sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim that the treatment was capable of achieving breast growth. As a result we concluded that the ad was misleading."

The ASA ruled that the promotion, which breached codes including misleading advertising and exaggeration, must not appear again in its current form.

Separately, the ASA also upheld a complaint against Groupon for an email and website promotion that stated "One Year Midweek Delivery Pass Plus £40 Worth of Groceries for £39 from Ocado (£110 Value)".

The promotion, advertised in July this year, continued by saying: "Those in need of a Groupon grocery guardian can receive assistance with £40 worth of groceries, as well as a one year midweek delivery pass, usually priced £69.99, to summon their defender vendor bearing Grouponic goods throughout the year for no extra fee ...

"Groupon holder will become eligible to sign up for a one year midweek delivery pass (£69.99 Value) within seven days of receiving ordered groceries."

The claim about the value of the midweek pass was challenged by four complainants, the ASA said.

Ocado disputed that its advert had misled customers and Groupon backed up the online grocer's rebuttal.

Despite that, the ASA upheld the complaint, after noting that a six-month delivery deal from Ocado was set at just £14.99 on 28 July, suggesting that an annual pass should cost the customer no more than £29.98.

The only £69.99 annual deal offered on the site was one that allowed customers to select any day of the week for when their groceries should be delivered by Ocado.

"In the absence of any evidence that compared the value of the promoted pass at £69.99 with an equivalent product, or that demonstrated how this price was calculated, we considered the 'value' of the promotional item had not been substantiated and therefore concluded that it was misleading," the ASA said.

It ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form and told Groupon to ensure statements of value were accurate representation of the price at which the product was normally offered.

The e-coupon site was also told to make clear to its customers the manner in which price statements were calculated when such promotions were advertised on the website.

If it's on the internet it must be 'SECRET', right?

Groupon has been under investigation by the Office of Fair Trading since July this year. The OFT has yet to confirm its conclusions from that probe.

Oddly, the ASA decided to put out a statement late last week saying it had referred Groupon to the OFT, even though this in fact happened many months ago.

That press release led to many news outlet wrongly claiming that the OFT investigation had been kept "secret" until now.

In reality, the probe into mounting complaints brought against Groupon in the UK has been ongoing for about five months, information about which has been available on the OFT's website.

The ASA has formally investigated and upheld complaints against Groupon’s advertising on 13 separate occasions. It has informally resolved 37 cases, following gripes about the company.

If Groupon wants to avoid upsetting regulators while circling the drain, then it really needs to stop making so many boobs. ®

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