Just before Christmas, we wrote that the CMA was investigating Simba Sleep for potentially misleading claims about the extent of price reductions on its mattresses and related products, as well as the use of urgency claims such as countdown timers, that may mislead consumers on the availability of special offers. 

The ASA has now got in on the action and has upheld complaints about Simba's price advertising. A website for Simba Sleep included several webpages for the “Simba Hybrid Mattress”, “Simba Hybrid Pro Mattress”, “Simba Hybrid Luxe Mattress” and the “Go Hybrid Mattress”. Each product page had a crossed-out price alongside a lower price in bold.

Competitor Emma Sleep (which ironically is also the subject of a CMA investigation and has also had complaints upheld about its advertising by the ASA) challenged whether the crossed-out reference prices and associated savings claims were misleading.

The ASA upheld the complaints.  It said that it considered that consumers would understand that the crossed-out prices represented the usual selling prices of the products at the time the ad was seen. It also considered that consumers would understand the 40% savings claims to represent genuine savings against those usual selling prices. 

The ASA assessed the price claims against sales data provided by Simba showing the number of unit sales for each mattress at its promotional price and reference price. It said that Simba Sleep had not demonstrated that the reference price was the usual selling price of those mattresses. The ASA also considered that the price fluctuations between the reference price and the promotional price, where it was sold at the reference price and the promotional price for seven days at a time, would be likely to affect consumers’ perceptions of the value of the offer, and whether the claimed saving was genuine. Simba did not demonstrate that there were significant sales at the higher selling price outside of the times the mattresses were sold at a promotional price, which was relevant in establishing whether the higher prices were the usual selling prices.  It was also not clear that certain promotions were introductory offers.

Consequently, the ASA considered that the claims were misleading.

This decision is not going to help Simba's case with the CMA, but also illustrates the two prong approach of the CMA and the ASA.  The CMA recently published its plan for the current year, and a key priority is to broadening its work to protect consumers from harmful practices in online choice architecture and misleading pricing, while the ASA keeps a close eye on price claims in advertising.