Business Maverick

CODE VIOLATION

Truworths’ promises of fashion vouchers misleading, rules regulator

Truworths’ promises of fashion vouchers misleading, rules regulator
(Photo: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Edrea du Toit)

A ‘sweetener’ of R1,000 should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Tempted to sign up for a Truworths store card? The retailer has now been taken to task over its long-standing “sweetener” of R1,000 in fashion vouchers, which the Advertising Regulatory Board has deemed to be in violation of its Code of Advertising. 

In the complaint, submitted by Shane Rule, the board was asked to rule on the retailer’s advertising, both online and in-store, which promise the fashion vouchers to entice consumers to sign up for store credit.

The complainant submitted that the vouchers are subject to a minimum spend of R375 and spread across several months. 

While the advertisement does state “T&Cs Apply”, he said these requirements and limitations were not brought to his attention when signing up, nor were they explained to him when collecting his card from the store.

Truworths, in response, submitted that its wording stated “… upon successfully opening an account, R1000.00 in fashion vouchers is loaded onto the account. Please note that all of the vouchers together make a total of R1000.00. There is a voucher with an expiry date for each month. One would need to purchase for a certain amount on the account, in order to redeem a voucher on that purchase and receive the discount. Our advert states that T&Cs apply, to which T&Cs are readily available on our website or on request”.

In its decision, the Advertising Regulatory Board applied the Code of Advertising Practice Clause 4.2.1 on misleading claims, which requires advertisers to refrain from making ambiguous or exaggerated claims, or from deceiving customers by omitting material information in a manner that prevents them from making an informed decision.

The clause says that advertisements should not contain any statement or visual presentation which, directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity, inaccuracy, exaggerated claim or otherwise, is likely to mislead the consumer.

On the specific conditions attached to this offer of R1,000 in vouchers, which the complainant said should have been made clearer, or explained when he collected his card, the board found there to be a clear contradiction between the likely expectation created by the advert and the reality confronting customers who apply for an account.

“The promise made is that new account customers would receive fashion vouchers to the total of R1,000. The implication is that this will happen as soon as their account is opened, and that they would be free to spend these vouchers as and when they see fit. However, from the submissions at hand, this does not appear to occur.”

This, the board said, contradicted the promise that one would receive these vouchers – or be able to redeem them– when one opened an account. The complainant had also noted there was a minimum spend threshold imposed on this offer, and that new account customers are required to spend at least R375 before they can redeem the vouchers, which also appears to contradict the broad offer of R1,000 in vouchers when opening an account. 

“In reality, it seems that customers get a total of R1,000 worth of discount vouchers, but these vouchers are only redeemable in predetermined periods, and can only be redeemed when certain spending thresholds are reached. This is substantially more nuanced and restrictive than communicated by the advertisement. 

“While true that the advertisement contains the generic reference to “T&Cs Apply”, this is of little use, particularly given that the terms and conditions contradict the expectation created by the advertisement.”

More concerning, the board said, was the fact that the Ts&Cs on Truworths’ website do not actually appear to mention the limitations noted by the complainant, making the generic reference to conditions “virtually meaningless”.

The directorate, therefore, noted that the initial advertising was misleading and in breach of the code, and the advertiser was required to amend the advertising claiming “R1,000 fashion vouchers when you open an account” or any advertising with similar wording, to clarify the conditions applicable to those vouchers. 

The ruling was made on 14 July, yet the website advertising remains unchanged.

Daily Maverick asked Truworths for comment, but did not receive a response by deadline. DM

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