ASA rules against Dell TV campaign
By Alun Williams
Posted on 2 Aug 2006 at 12:35
The Advertising Standards Authority has criticised Dell for a recent TV ad which quoted a price not available by default online. However, the ruling cleared the practice of including upgraded components in the online spec that have been selected by default (for example, extended service support).
The TV ad said, 'Whatever you need a PC for, Dell has the one you want for less than you might expect. Right now get this Dell Inspiron notebook featuring an Intel Celeron processor for only £299.' A website address and a phone number were displayed on the screen at the same time.
Twenty-three complainants said the laptop - an Inspiron 1300 - was not actually available on the website for £299, but rather for £349.
Dell's response was that when customers selected a computer on the website they were shown a price that included a number of pre-selected options. It claimed that text, prominently displayed, informed readers that the price included an 'upgraded service package' and that they could reach the advertised price by downgrading elements of the package.
Dell told the ASA that it was accepted industry practice to automatically upgrade service options.
The ASA, however, upheld the original complaint - that the price advertised on the TV was not found on the website - and deemed the ad misleading: 'The ASA considered that because the ad featured both a phone number and a website address viewers would expect the laptop to be available to purchase at the advertised price by both means when the ad was first broadcast. It initially was not available on the website at the advertised price and we considered that the ad was therefore misleading.'
Specifically, it breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading advertising), 5.2.1 (Evidence), 5.2.3 (Qualifications) and 5.3.1 (Accurate pricing).
Note, however, that the ASA did accept Dell's upgrading-by default approach, when addressing two subsequent complaints that the now-correctly displayed price rose when the laptop was selected on the website: 'We considered that the text on the website which said "For your added protection the above price includes an upgraded service package. To reach the advertised price please select a downgraded service from the Support Services section below" was an adequate indication to users that the package they had selected had been upgraded and that they could deselect this upgrade to reach the advertised price.'
In other words, the ASA feels Dell's online practices were clear and acceptable, while the television campaign contravened its policies.
You can read the full ruling at the ASA website. Leave your thoughts on this ruling via the Comments link below.
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