The advertising watchdog has issued a warning about retailers misleading consumers by advertising products online that are not in stock.
It comes as the Advertising Standards Authority has ordered its compliance team to investigate an online tyre retailer which supplied replacement tyres to a consumer in place of the ones they had ordered.
The case involved the MyTyres.co.uk website, operated by Delticom Tyres which retails tyres online for delivery and fitting at the customer’s chosen partner workshop.
It carried an advert for Yokohama Advan Neova AD08 tyres stating that there were only six left in stock. A consumer purchased four of the tyres, but an alternative type was delivered.
When they complained, they were informed that these could not be replaced with the correct tyre and thereby they understood the ones they’d ordered were out of stock. However, on checking the website MyTyres still stated there were six in stock.
The ASA has ruled the promotion was misleading and criticised Delticom Tyres’ “apparent disregard” for the CAP Code which governs the advertising industry after Delticom did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
The watchdog added: “We had not seen documentary evidence to demonstrate that the stock levels on the MyTyres website were accurate and that the product in question had been in stock at the time the complainant attempted to purchase it. In the absence of such evidence we therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.
“The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Delticom Tyres not to advertise a product as in stock if they could not demonstrate that it was available. We referred the matter to CAP's compliance team.”
Trading Standards referral
An ASA spokesman said where an advertiser is unwilling or unable to cooperate it can consider implementing a range of different sanctions to encourage them to stick to the rules.
These sanctions, specifically in relation to online operators, include removing the company’s paid search ads and placing the ASA's own ads in and around their search results to alert would-be customers to the problem claims.
"If our sanctions do not bring an advertiser into line then we can and will refer them to our legal backstop power, Trading Standards, who can take statutory action," he added.