ASA Rules Aldi’s Ads Comparing Prices Of Its Own Label With Branded Products Were Misleading

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that three price comparison adverts used by Aldi earlier this year were misleading.

Two TV ads compared a selection of products from Aldi and its supermarket rivals. One ad claimed a £70 Aldi shop would cost £98 at the Big 4 supermarkets, whilst another claimed savings of 35 % by shopping at Aldi.

A further press ad targeted Morrisons by featuring an image of two baskets that contained a range of products and stated “Is a price crunch amazing? …No, this is amazing”. A ‘callout’ icon above the left-hand basket stated “Morrisons Price Crunch £18.19” while the ‘callout’ icon above the right-hand basket stated “Aldi £11.42”. However, the Morrisons basket included premium brands such as Tropicana fruit juice, Finish washing powder and Heinz tomato ketchup, while the Aldi selection was all own label.

Morrisons and two members of the public complained that the price comparisons were misleading. They said the ads did not make it sufficiently clear that they included comparisons between Aldi’s own brand products and branded products sold at Morrisons and other supermarkets that sold cheaper own brand products.

Aldi claimed that viewers of the ads were likely to interpret the comparison as intended and that they would also understand that other supermarkets may stock own brand ranges that in some cases may have been cheaper with on-screen text used in the ads saying: “Other supermarkets may sell ‘own brand’ products at different prices.”

However, the ASA upheld the complaints. The regulator said: “We acknowledged that Aldi stated they had not intended the comparisons to represent a ‘typical’ weekly shop but to be a comparison between the pictured products only. Nonetheless we considered that was how consumers would interpret the ads rather than as a representation of the savings which could be made by switching from a largely branded shop to shopping in Aldi, and therefore assessed them on that basis.

“Because the ads implied that by swapping from their usual big supermarket to shopping at Aldi, consumers could make savings of the levels highlighted in the ads (rather than presenting the comparison as a representation of the savings which could be made by switching from a largely branded shop to shopping in Aldi), and we had not seen evidence to demonstrate that was the case we concluded that the ads were misleading.”

The ASA warned Aldi that the ads must not appear again in their current form.

Matthew Barnes, Aldi’s UK & Ireland Chief Executive, said he was “extremely disappointed” with decision. “The use of comparative advertising is a well-established principle and is firmly in the interests of consumers and encourages competition between retailers,” he said.

“We will work within this new guidance from the ASA and continue to promote the significant price gap between Aldi’s quality, award-winning products and their higher-priced brand equivalents.”

A spokesperson for Morrisons said: “We believe this advertising was very misleading and we are pleased to see that the ASA agrees. Customers will understand that it is unfair to compare the price of own brand products to brands such as Tropicana and then claim that they are cheaper.”

NAM Implications:
  • How long before brand owners – supply & retail- realise that by the time breaches in the letter of the law are addressed, the damage is already done…?
  • Time to read into legislation/regulation, crystalise the spirit intended and even then ensure that the contents of the tin exceed the label-induced expectation…?