ASA ban eBay ad

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We’ve all seen those eBay ads on their homepage that tell you you can buy a CD for 50p, jeans for a quid, a Ferrari for a fiver… I exaggerate, but you know the ones I mean. Probably, like me, you’ve thought “yeah right” and moved right on to paying realistic prices for your purchases. But one man didn’t.

Having seen a banner advertising “Coffee Machine Under £100” and “Retro Chair Under £50”, a complainant to the Advertising Standards Authority challenged the ad, as the coffee machine was apparently not available at all, and the chair was only available for £250.

eBay in their defence said that the items and prices in the advert were generic examples only, and that the links from the ads led to pages of search results related to the examples shown. Brand names and model numbers were not shown, because there was no intention to create “an expectation that the exact identical items were available on the eBay site”. They did, however, provide examples of items matching those in the advert at the time the complainant said that they were not there: they speculated that with over 50 million items listed on the site, perhaps he could not find the items shown, even though they were available.

The complaint was upheld. The ASA acknowledged that the items shown had been available on the eBay site, but while the ad appeared from 30 October to 15 December, the evidence sent by eBay showed that the coffee machine concerned had been available only until 2 November and the chair from 28 November to 5 December. The ASA believed that “most consumers would click on the links in the ad and expect to be able to buy the specific product for the stated price. We considered, therefore, that all the items depicted in the ad should have been available for the whole time the ad appeared and, as soon as the items were no longer available, the ad should have been withdrawn.”

I notice that the redesigned front page has abandoned these kind of ads, though they are still around in eBay’s banners – there might be one on the bottom of this very page right now.


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