Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, is coming up on 29 November. With prices slashed in stores and online bargains to be had, the annual event, held the day after Thanksgiving in the US, gets shoppers around the world whipped into a buying frenzy that’s great for businesses. But are your Black Friday ads misleading customers and putting you at risk of getting a black mark against your name?
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will restrict or ban ads that breach its advertising codes, and usually makes details of the breach public on its website.
- 8 steps to make sure your Black Friday ads are legally compliant
- 1. Black Friday savings must be genuine
- 2. Know your pricing history
- 3. Beware of the small print
- 4. Be careful when using ‘up to’ and ‘from’
- 5. Be clear which products or services your Black Friday sale applies to
- 6. Think about your stock levels
- 7. Stick to your Black Friday sale end date
- 8. Be careful with price matching
8 steps to make sure your Black Friday ads are legally compliant
Here are 8 tips to help you stay on the right side of the law and protect your business’s reputation!
1. Black Friday savings must be genuine
Don’t mislead a customer into thinking they are saving more than they actually are.
If you claim a product was a certain price before your Black Friday sale, that price should have been your normal selling price for the product.
If you were selling a product at a discount immediately before your Black Friday sale, you should compare your Black Friday sale price to the discounted price, not the full price of the product.
Don’t compare your Black Friday sale price to an RRP if you or your competitors usually sell the product at a significantly lower price than the RRP.
2. Know your pricing history
Check you have evidence to back up your usual sales prices (such as your pricing records and sales volume data). The ASA may look at this to check whether the savings you are advertising are genuine.
3. Beware of the small print
Don’t hide important conditions to your offer (like exclusions to the sale or requirements to buy another item to qualify for the discount) in the fine print or on a separate page.
If space or time for your ad is very limited, you should include as much information about significant conditions as possible in the main ad. You should also indicate that terms and conditions apply, and include an easily accessible link to the rest of the terms and conditions. Space on your own website or emails is not considered limited by the ASA, so make sure all significant terms are in the original email or on the same page of the website as your ad.
4. Be careful when using ‘up to’ and ‘from’
Claims like ‘up to 50% off’ and ‘from £5’ shouldn’t exaggerate the discount a customer is likely to get. For example, a Black Friday sale for ‘up to 60% off’ is likely to be misleading if only a small proportion of the items are available at 60% off, or if only the cheapest items are reduced by 60%.
5. Be clear which products or services your Black Friday sale applies to
Don’t claim your sale applies to everything in your store if there are exceptions. If your ad says ‘Up to 50% off everything’, all of your products should have some discount, and a significant amount should be discounted by 50%.
Tell customers clearly if a sale only applies to certain types of products or services. For example, if you are offering a sale on hotel rooms, your ad must prominently state what type of hotel room is available at that lower price and which dates the lower price is available on.
6. Think about your stock levels
Estimate how much demand for a product you are likely to have, and if you think demand will outstrip supply, state in your ads that ‘stocks are limited’. You could look at your previous Black Friday sales for a rough guide.
Tell customers if there are age limits or geographical restrictions on availability. If a product sells out or you cannot fulfil an order, remove or change ads that feature that product and inform customers quickly.
7. Stick to your Black Friday sale end date
Sales should not usually be extended beyond the original end date.
8. Be careful with price matching
If you claim your product is at its ‘lowest price’ or ‘best price’, you must be able to beat (and not just match) competitors’ prices. If you match but do not beat competitors’ prices, make that clear in your ad.
Don’t get confused between ‘Lowest prices guaranteed’ (which means you have checked that products can’t be bought cheaper elsewhere) and ‘Lowest prices guarantee’ (which means you will beat lower prices when informed of them).
Avoiding that black mark
Whether a Black Friday ad is misleading will depend on the context and what steps you have taken to make the key information clear to customers. The ASA will look at the overall impression of the ad, and its effect on customers, rather than at whether you intended to mislead.
Check that your ads don’t leave out important information about a product, hide key information, or present the information in an unclear way. If in doubt, you can contact the ASA who will give free advice on whether a particular ad may be misleading. Get more guidance on how to make sure your advertising, labelling and pricing follows the law here.
Marion joined Sparqa Legal as a Senior Legal Editor in 2018. She previously worked as a corporate/commercial lawyer for five years at one of New Zealand’s leading law firms, Kensington Swan (now Dentons Kensington Swan), and as an in-house legal consultant for a UK tech company. Marion regularly writes for Sparqa’s blog, contributing across its commercial, IP and health and safety law content.