Insights Committees of Advertising Practice publish advice note on delivery charges in ads


The advice note contains guidance on eight key points:

i) Do I need to state delivery charges? CAP says that if you are stating prices for advertised products, or it would otherwise be misleading to omit them, then you need to state your delivery charges. Delivery costs are material information (rule 4.4), i.e. information that will affect a consumer’s decision as to whether to purchase the product. Therefore, if a product is priced at £169, but there’s an additional charge of £25 for postage which is not made clear, or hidden in lots of terms and conditions, the ASA is likely to consider the ad misleading;

ii) What if the charges apply per product? If delivery charges apply per product and the consumer cannot obtain the product without paying the delivery charges, then the cost should be included in the price of the product (rule 18); if the consumer can obtain the product another way (i.e. collect it themselves or from a store) then it may be acceptable to make clear that charges apply for delivery and include the cost in a sufficiently prominent footnote; however, the ASA is likely to look unfavourably on retailers that rely on a very limited number of collection points as the reason for placing applicable delivery charges in a footnote;

iii) What if the charges apply per order? If the charges apply per order then it’s likely to be acceptable to make clear that these charges apply and state the cost in a prominent qualification (rules 20); in the case of an e-tailing website, it may be acceptable to state the relevant charges on a separate page, provided this page is clearly linked or signposted to from the stated price for the product; delivery charges that are only revealed during the “checkout” process or after the customer has made a transactional decision are likely to break the rules;

iv) What if I cannot calculate the postage in advance? If it is not possible to calculate the delivery charge in advance, for example because it depends on the size and/or weight of the order, the amount ordered, the consumers’ location or other factors not known in advance of the consumer placing their order, you need to make clear on the product pages that delivery charges are applicable, and also make clear how those charges will be calculated (rules 19 & 3.20);

v) What if I cannot deliver everywhere or have to charge more for some locations? If you cannot offer delivery to some locations then you need to make this clear upfront and avoid claims that imply that you can deliver to all areas, e.g. “Great brands, anywhere you can get online”; claims for “UK Delivery” or “UK Mainland Delivery” are often ambiguous, e.g. if the Isle of Wight or the Scottish Highlands are excluded in “Mainland Delivery”, or if there is an extra charge to deliver to Northern Ireland; if you are claiming to offer “[Free/£X/Next Day] UK Delivery” that means anywhere in the UK; if you are unable to extend the advertised delivery service to certain postcodes, the islands or the Highlands, then such a claim is likely to mislead; qualifying this with exclusions is unlikely to be sufficient as this is likely to result in a misleading contradiction rather than a clarification;

vi) What about “Free Delivery” claims? Absolute claims such as, “Free UK Delivery”, “Free Delivery on all Orders” or “Free Next Day Delivery on all your orders this month” imply that no customer, regardless of how much they buy or where they are, will incur delivery charges; if a minimum spend applies this will need to be made explicitly clear in the headline claim (e.g. “Free delivery on orders over £40”); however, if marketers are not able to offer this for all postcodes, this will also need to be made clear in the headline claim; qualifications detailing exclusions are likely to be viewed as misleadingly contradicting rather than clarifying these claims; and

vii) What if the product is free? Rule 3.24.1 makes clear that an item cannot be described as “free” if the customer has to pay packing, packaging, handling or administration charges; this means that marketers may charge postage for a “free” item as long as it reflects the true cost of the postage (e.g. a stamp); however, as soon as you add handling, packaging, packing or administration fees, the item can no longer be described as “free”; as for inflated delivery charges, the ASA is unlikely to look favourably on those charging excessive postage or packaging fees, if this does not reflect the true cost of postage, as this can make any product price claims misleading; whatever amount you charge, make sure it’s clear, honest and fair.

To read the advice note in full and for links to further information, click here.