Daily Mail ad 'misled' readers, rules ASA

The advertising watchdog has upheld a complaint against the Daily Mail for “misleading” readers with a front-page offer claiming to give away spring bulbs for free.

The advertising watchdog censured the Daily Mail & General Trust title after it carried a front-page flash headed “Worth £25 free spring bulbs for every reader”.

The details of the offer, found on page 50, then stated: “Every reader can claim two super packs of free spring flowering bulbs.

“Choose from a pack of 25 large-flowered long-stemmed tulip bulbs or a mixed collection of 100 Cottage Garden Alliums … All you need to do is send £3.99 for each of the packs you wish to claim, to cover the costs of p&p.”

Readers complained to the ASA that the front-page ad was misleading, because it did not make clear that postage and packaging costs had to be paid.

Associated Newspapers, the national newspaper division of DMGT, claimed the British Code of Advertising did not require it to mention postage and packaging costs on its flash advert.

The publisher added that the code stated that an offer could be described as free “if consumers paid no more than the minimum, unavoidable cost of responding to the promotion, and/or the true cost of freight or delivery.”

Despite this the ASA concluded the claim “free” was misleading and the ad was in breach of the advertiser’s code, which bars promoters from charging for packaging. The watchdog ruled that the ad must not again appear in its current form.

The ASA stated: “We considered the cost of postage and packing was a significant condition that could affect a consumer’s decision to purchase the paper, and should therefore be stated on the cover. Because it was not, we concluded the ad was misleading.”

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