ASA bans Daily Mail ad for ‘Free' smart plug

Mark Johnson's picture

The Advertising Standards Authority has ordered DMG Media to cease showing an ad for a ‘Free’ smart metre, after complaints that it wasn’t free at all.

DMG Media, which owns the Mail on Sunday and the MyMail website, starting running the promotion on the company’s newspapers and online versions in August last year.

However, customers quickly became upset that the ‘Free’ metres could only be ordered by a variety of costly measures.

Anyone wanting to order the smart metres first had to have a subscription to MyMail and also spend 2,000 Nectar points.

Unplugged: DMG's 'free' smart plugs ad ruled out by ASA

“However, buying the newspaper only granted consumers 15 points”, the ASA noted. “To respond to the offer, consumers had to use Nectar points obtained from activities other than the purchase of the paper. 

“We considered that the offer therefore required a level of commitment from consumers that went beyond the unavoidable cost of responding, collecting, or paying for delivery of the plug.”

Nectar points link

The ASA continued: “We understood that Nectar points could be redeemed to receive a wide range of benefits and discounts and we considered they clearly had value – regardless of what the specific value ascribed to them at the points of collection and redemption were.” 

“We considered that it was therefore not the case that anything purchased using the points could be described as ‘free’. 

“If readers of the newspaper had received 2,000 Nectar points when entering into their MyMail account the unique code they received with their paper, so that the MyMail/Nectar scheme was being used only as a mechanism to facilitate the administration of the offer, we considered that it would have been acceptable to describe the plug as “free”. 

The ASA told DMG Media that offer must not appear again in the form complained of. “We told DMG Media Ltd to ensure that future marketing communications did not use the term “free” to describe items that could not be purchased with the number of Nectar points obtainable by responding to the offer.”

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