In the Netherlands, the most important rules about advertisements are set out in the Dutch Advertising Code. One of the rules in the Advertising Code is that advertisements shall not be dishonest or misleading. In a recent case it was confirmed that advertisers should always be very clear about the availability of a product. If for instance an advertisement brochures shows a product for a certain price but the product is not available at all, this is a violation of the Advertising Code. Anyone who feels that an advertisement does not meet the rules in this code may submit a complaint to the Advertising Code Authority (ACA).
Dishwashing tablets not in stock
The ACA recently ruled in a case about an advertising brochure of a Dutch supermarket that contained an advertisement for 10 dishwashing tablets of the brand Dreft priced at € 1. At the top of the page, the supermarket mentioned that this advertisement was only valid on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The complainant visited the supermarket on the first day (Thursday morning), right after the store opened. The Dreft dishwashing tablets were however not available.
According to the supermarket, its supplier was not able to deliver the product. Instead, it offered the complainant 23 dishwashing tablets of the brand Sun for the special price of € 2. Apparently the complainant preferred Dreft over Sun. The supermarket further pointed out that the brochure mentioned that the advertisement is only valid while stocks last (or as we say in Dutch: “op = op”).
Verdict of the ACA
The chairman of the ACA states in the verdict that if an advertiser makes a special offer, it needs to make sure that there is a reasonable amount of products available – also taking into account the particular offer and the advertisements therefore. In any event, that particular product should be available in a reasonable amount at the beginning of the action. Offering a similar product does not suffice.
In this case the product was not available at all and the supermarket did not make any reservation to that extent in the advertisement. Because the advertising consequently may have enticed the average consumer to make a decision on a transaction which he would otherwise not have made, the chairman rules that the advertising message is contrary to the Advertising Code. The chairman upholds the complaint and recommends the supermarket to discontinue this way of advertising.
The fact that the supplier was not able to deliver the product to the supermarket, does not lead to a different decision. According to the chairman, it does not matter for the consumer what the reason is for the product not being available.
Comments. If you wish to advertise for certain products in the Netherlands but are unsure whether there will be sufficient stock, we advise to make this clear in the advertisement. Alternatively, the consumer can be offered a voucher to purchase the product at a later time for the special price.