The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned an advert on Naked Wines’ website for being potentially misleading following a complaint.
The complaint concerned an advert run by the merchant in August 2011, which offered consumers the chance to have £40 refunded to their account after making a purchase and then signed them up to a £20 a month Angels Account if they said “yes”.
Rowan Gormley, founder of Naked Wines, told the drinks business that the affair was a “storm in a wine glass as nobody has lost a penny – nor can they.”
The ASA’s website explains that after making a purchase a customer would see and an advert asking: “Thank you. Now would you like your money back?” with two boxes underneath, one red stating: “No thank you, I have quite enuff (sic) already”, and another in green that read: “Yes please, it would be stupid not to”.
A further heading underneath that asked why the merchant was doing such a thing followed by the text: “We are delighted to give you £40 now and 33% cashback on ALL future orders because, frankly, we would rather give it to you than Rupert Murdoch.
“You see if you buy from us on a regular basis, we don’t need to waste money selling to you. So we can afford to take that money and refund it to you. It’s like getting paid to drink wine!”
Again under that was the heading “What do you have to do to get paid to drink wine?” whereupon it explained: “Show us that you are going to become a good customer by investing £20 a month into your Naked Wines account”.
It was then explained that customers would be able to cancel their Angels Account at any time with a full refund.
However, the ASA maintained that the complainant’s challenge that the ad was misleading was justified as “the website did not make clear that by clicking the green link, which stated ‘Yes please’ he would automatically be subscribed to an Angels Account and be charged £20 per month.”
Naked Wines argued that it was explained that by clicking the green button, customers were opening an Angels Account and that the green button was linked to a page explaining the workings of the account and that customers were able to cancel and receive a full refund at any time.
Nevertheless, Naked Wines said that it had amended the advert. A subsequent assessment by the ASA, however, decided that the amended advert was too similar to the previous one and upheld the complaint.
The explanation on the ASA’s site agreed that although there had been a change to the order of the text and a broadening of the explanation regarding the deal and the Angels Account, “We considered that the ad did not make it clear that by clicking on the green button, the customer was signing up to open an Angels Account and would be charged £20 a month, which would go into the account towards future purchases.
“We considered that the main body of the ad should have made it clear that by clicking on the green button the customer would be opening an account. Because the ad had not done so we concluded that it was misleading and had breached the Code.”
It ruled that the advert must not be run again in its current form. Gormley however has explained that it was not and indeed is not possible for consumers to lose money with the merchant through the scheme, saying: “Customers have to opt in to become Angels, by clicking a button.
“The requirement to invest £20 a month was set out on the page in question, and not hidden in terms and conditions.
“The Angel scheme has been designed so that there is no risk of loss to customers. Any customer signing up in error can cancel at any time and get their money back immediately. The £20 monthly payment is not a subscription or a fee or an investment. It is the customer’s money and they can do with it as they will.
“The page in question was one step of a process, that includes a confirmation page, and an insert in the customer’s case and a monthly statement.
“Over 50,000 customers have signed up to become Angels over the three years Naked Wines has been in business. On the other hand the number of complainants is tiny.”