An ad for a 50% discount on a kitchen at DIY chain Wickes has been banned after the retailer effectively cancelled out any saving for customers by doubling prices the same day.
Wickes advertised the Heritage Bone showroom kitchen on its website in August and September starting at £2,086, including a multi-buy discount of 50% off for customers who bought five or more units and 50% off installation.
The Advertising Standards Authority upheld six complaints, including one from consumer group Which?, that the promotion misled customers.
Which? objected that Wickes raised the list price of its kitchens before or around the time of the sale, which meant the sale price was the same as it had been prior to the increase.
The watchdog also complained that the multi-buy offer may have made consumers feel rushed to buy, assuming it would end, when the offer or an equivalent had been running for a long time.
Trading Standards rules make it clear that retailers must have previously sold a significant number of units at a certain price to be able to legitimately reference the original price.
Wickes argued that the 50% discount was a multi-buy offer, comparing the cost of buying five units with that of buying fewer than five, and was not intended as a discount against a previous selling price.
However, data provided by Wickes showed that it had made very few sales of four or fewer units, either before or after the multi-buy offer was introduced.
Wickes said the ad was a multi-buy promotion and the average consumer would have read it as such.
It said multi-buy offers were a common and legitimate sales mechanism and were well understood by consumers, and added that its offer in relation to kitchen units was in line with market practice.
The ASA noted that Wickes had significantly increased the price of individual units on the day of the promotion, in one example raising the cost of a unit from £159 to £318, “effectively cancelling out any saving”.
Similar price increases occurred on every unit across each range.
Banning the ad, the ASA told Wickes not to alter list prices in a way that gave the misleading impression that a genuine saving could be made when that was not the case.
It also told the retailer not to base price claims on the cost of an individual unit where the ad was clearly promoting full kitchens.
The ASA said: “We therefore considered that the price of a single unit was not valid in this context as a reference for a saving on a full kitchen, and that the claimed saving based on the showroom list price of a single unit did not represent a genuine saving for consumers.”
Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “Our investigation exposed how a number of major kitchen and bathroom retailers were using potentially misleading tricks to make a sale.
“Today’s ruling indicates that this offer from Wickes should never have been run in the first place. If it, and other retailers, continue to play fast and loose with the rules, we urge Trading Standards and the ASA to intervene and send a clear message that these practices have to stop.”
Wickes declined to comment.