Amazon is often held up as the leading light in online retail but evidence that even the mighty cock it up sometimes has emerged after the company was slammed by the ad watchdog for misleading consumers.
Last month, a DMA study named Amazon as the favourite retail brand for one in four (25%) consumers – beating high street stalwarts John Lewis (14%) and Marks & Spencer (10%) in the process – but that accolade counts for nothing when delivery charge confusion reigns.
The issue centres on a search listing and product page promoting an electronic item within its AmazonBasics section; which riled one user who complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about the text accompanying them.
The first read ‘Eligible for FREE UK Delivery’ while the second said: ‘Price: £18.49 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £20’.
The complainant beleived that the delivery pricing was unclear, while they also they argued that Amazon did not make it sufficiently clear the terms under which the item would be eligible for free delivery – ie whether they would have to spend £20 in total to qualify.
Following an ASA inquiry, the retail giant admitted that it was “impossible to state the actual delivery charge on any given product page because the charge depended on a range of factors”. The firm said that for customers who did not qualify for free delivery, it had included text underneath the eligibility table which when clicked on provided further information.
As for the second ad, Amazon said it understood the second product was sold by an external seller which did not charge for delivery on the product.
These arguments carried little truck with the ASA, however, which ruled that consumers would take from the first ad that a delivery charge would normally be applied to the product, but that if the shopper purchased additional products to bring the order total above £20 they would not be charged for delivery of any of the items in the order.
It stated: “We concluded the ads did not make sufficiently clear which items were eligible for free delivery, and under what terms, and that they were therefore misleading.”
The watchdog went on to warn Amazon that it must be much clearer in its pricing policy. “We also told them to ensure that qualifications to the offers of free delivery clarified, rather than contradicted, the claims they were intended to qualify,” the ASA concluded.
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