Guess what? Watchdog bans eBay's "25% cheaper" ads

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guesswhatcropeBay UK’s advertising claiming items are “25% cheaper than the high street” has been banned. The Advertising Standards Authority said that that eBay did not have the evidence to support such an absolute claim, and the ad must not appear again in its current form.

The statement appeared in eBay’s Christmas “Guess What?” campaign – including around the fun Christmas trees. eBay based their claim on a sample of 288 products sold new on the site, comparing average eBay selling price with that in six mainstream retail stores, such as John Lewis or Debenhams. In the ruling, the ASA noted that although the figures had been calculated across twelve different product sectors, areas that buyers might reasonably have expected to be included – some home and garden, toys and games, desktop computers – were *not* included in the comparison.

Although the small print on the ads did explain some of the methodology used to obtain the “25% cheaper” figure, the ASA said

we considered that readers were likely to infer from the headline claim that they could expect a new item purchased on eBay to be 25% cheaper than one purchased in the high street on every occasion. Because the small print was of insufficient size to avoid being overlooked, and because it contradicted the main message of the headline, we considered that the ad was likely to mislead.

As one seller said to me on first seeing these ads, “what, we’re supposed to be 25% cheaper than Argos?!” These ads were deeply misleading, confusing to over-optimistic buyers hoping to score a bargain on their Christmas shopping, and unhelpful to sellers who do, after all, need to make a profit somewhere.

Via Brand Republic.

18 Responses

  1. I thought at the time the claims were a bit misleading, but tbh I was having to much fun laughing at the trees 😆

  2. Genius really,,

    detracting the eye from the small print with a ridiculous looking advertising banner, I take my hat off to them.

  3. Whole thing will be a moot point by Christmas next year – the rate at which shops are closing there won’t be any high street left worth talking about by Christmas 😮

  4. This is good news. We had potential buyers complaining we weren’t 25% cheaper than some of the big retailers. They believed we were ripping them off.

  5. #6 sorry to hear times are tough for you on eBay.

    I must say you have some fantastic pots and pans, time for some shopping.

  6. I doubt ebay is ever going to get away from car boot perception syndrome.

    I work in Market Research and here are a couple of questions from two different surveys:

    1. Where have you bought fake electronic goods from in the last year?

    1. Ebay
    2. Other auction site
    3. Other website
    4. Market
    5. High street retailer
    6. Other, please specify_________
    7. Don’t know

    1. Which of these have you started doing or are you doing more often as a result of the current economic climate? [Single code per row]

    [SHOW ALL SELECTED AT Q27 excluding codes 14 & 15]
    ROWS

    1. Haggled in high street retailers
    2. Specifically visited a shop because they have a sale on
    3. Bought refurbished goods
    4. Bought secondhand goods
    5. Used eBay or other auction sites
    6. Used cashback websites
    7. Used discount voucher websites
    8. Used price comparison websites
    9. Used ‘swapping’ websites (for books/clothes)
    10. Shopped at discount retailers and discount supermarkets (e.g .Aldi, Lidl, Netto)
    11. Visited car boot sales or jumble sales
    12. Used Freecycle
    13. Used ‘rewards’ on your credit card (e.g. discounts offered for certain stores)

    I don’t think many people think of ebay as anything more than a very large online pound shop. And how do you change peoples thoughts on that?

  7. Hi Sue

    Unfortunately, I am not allowed to say. But it was a very VERY respectable company.

    And yes, it is tellling. And sad. And I wish ebay didn’t seem to be actively encouraging this cheap and nasty image.

    But then again, I look at all the Supermarkets and their advertising. I see Tesco and Asda going on and on about how much cheaper they are than the other and frankly it makes me dislike them all the more.

    I am not overly proud so if it makes me feel like that then it must make others feel like that. I think that ultimately this type of advertising will eventually bite them all on the bum. But not yet…not in ‘today’s economical climate’.

  8. Was this survey performed online? If so then the results would be skewed to online retailers, such as eBay.

    If the survey was taken outside the local boots in the high st, I would guess that the results may be different.

  9. #9 (Andrea) – your small survey hardly provides conclusive evidence of buyer habits:

    “I don’t think many people think of ebay as anything more than a very large online pound shop.”

    I agree with Scot Wingo’s ebay strategies book – ebay is excellent for initial life cycle and end of life. I sell new season Doc Martens for full price no problem. People use ebay as a search engine for goods them want….they then look on Amazon, play and others before making buying decisions.

    Listening to catalyst speakers a month or so ago, there was much discussion about buyer habits, and truthfully is so complex, people dont know the true trends. Google saw categories like clothing growing massively online, and that marries with my experience in my business. Buyers are getting savvy, and are using all the resources at their disposal to buy. Ebay is part of the mix….and the buyers are big and low spenders. I regulary have people spending £200+ in one hit.

  10. My small survey? How do you know how large or small it was?

    My point was more that people automatically associate ebay with ‘cheap’. And ebay don’t do much to make that any better.

  11. Price has never been the main factor for me when making a purchase. So long as the price is reasonable, I would hapilly spend more to buy from somewhere I trust.

  12. I never actually saw the ad (was in supposed to be broadcast in all regions?) but my first thoughts when I read the article at the top were about the Tesco/Asda charade. That’s been going on for months, does anybody yet know as a result of the TV ads which one is the cheaper? Yet they’re allowed to get away with it. And what about all those ads claiming to be the Number 1 brand? What does that mean exactly? The best ingredients? The best seller?

    I have mixed feelings about ebay purporting to be the cheapest all the time, they’re enforcing free P&P at a time when postage costs have just increased and thus increasing costs, and therefore prices, higher whilst trying to tell the public that we, the sellers, are selling stuff cheaper than the High Street. On the other hand, most of my prices are higher than the High Street and many buyers still buy believing they’re getting a better deal than on the High Street because that’s what ebay are telling them. Nice idea ebay, but it will never work while you are pushing costs up and reducing visibility whilst trying to force us to reduce prices.

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