French Connection: Continuing problems with the Advertising Standards Agency

March 11, 2013

French Connection has received another telling off from the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) regarding its sales promotions. 

Whilst the fashion retailer has been no stranger to controversy since it reinvented itself as FCUK in the 1990’s, this latest incident shows how easy it is for retailers generally to fall foul of the ASA’s guidelines.

The ASA is responsible for enforcing advertising rules – known as the Committee of Advertising Practice Code (CAP Code) - that must be followed by all advertisers, agencies, and the media.  The ASA can take steps to remove or amend any advertisements that breach these rules.  It cannot, however, take anyone to court or impose any fines.

What happened in this instance?  
French Connection had initially offered a “spotlight dress” on its website at £125 in early 2012.  After 4 months, the fashion retailer started to promote the same dress at a reduced price of £120.  This seems reasonable enough – however, the dress continued to be promoted at the reduced price for 30 days longer than it had ever been sold for the full amount (i.e. £125).  Understandably, the ASA thought that this price comparison was misleading – French Connection’s promotion had suggested that the £120 price tag was only a short-term offer, as opposed to the established selling price it had turned out to be.

This may seem like a storm in a teacup as there was only a £5 reduction for a piece retailing at over £100.  Similarly, the ASA’s warning does not compare to its criticisms of the retailer’s ‘FCUK Vanity’ and safe sex advertising campaigns of the recent past.  However, it does illustrate how easy it is for fashion retailers to inadvertently mislead consumers over sales promotions – it is crucial that lower prices are not available for so long that they become misleading, and that reductions and their presentation are structured to avoid this.  

Best advice? 
Keep clear records of your established prices and sales promotions (including relevant dates).  This will help you to avoid falling foul of the ASA’s guidelines and any negative publicity as a result.


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