By Mark Fairlie

An advertisement for Amazon’s top Amazon Prime service has been banned because it misled customers. The ban comes after UK advertising regulator the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received more than 280 complaints from customers who did not receive their packages within a day as the ‘one-day delivery’ ads had claimed.

The exact ad in question on the Amazon UK homepage stated they offered “one-day delivery for Christmas”, adding that customers could “get unlimited one-day delivery with Amazon Prime.”

While text placed elsewhere on the website explained this was dependent on the time the order was placed and whether it was in stock, the ASA concluded this was not made clear to customers.

40% of Prime members receive their parcel late

Amazon offer a paid membership service that offers free next-day deliveries as part of their subscription for £7.99 a month or £79 per year. The ASA launched an investigation into these claims following an influx of Prime customers reported their deliveries did not arrive the day after their orders were placed.

The watchdog’s review of the ad concluded that it breached the Committee of Advertising Practice Code rules 3.1 for misleading advertising, 3.7 for lack of evidence the claims were true, and 3.9 for not qualifying their one-day delivery claim.

The ASA added that the advert “must not appear again in its current form” and that Amazon must make it evident that a “significant proportion” of their Prime products are not available for next-day delivery in the future.

The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) have warned that online retailers should help customers access compensation if they fail to deliver items when they are promised.

The CAB’s chief executive Gillian Guy told the BBC that as many as 40% of people who used a premium delivery service received their parcel later than expected.

“It’s more difficult for consumers to work out what they’re owed when their parcels don’t arrive on time if they’ve paid for a service like Amazon Prime, compared to when they pay for one-off deliveries.”

Amazon Vs ASA

This is not the first time Amazon’s advertising strategies have come under the criticism of the advertising watchdog.

Earlier this year Amazon came under investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority for other misleading advertisements. It was found that four adverts for electrical products on Amazon featured “misleading” recommended retail prices (RRPs) and savings claim.

The ads in question for a television, a laptop, a gaming monitor, and an electric computer each received a single complaint that the savings advertised were unsubstantiated and unverified.

Amazon claimed the RRPs they published were in line with the prices displayed by third-party websites and internal sellers on its Marketplace site.

Amazon Prime delivery ad banned for ‘misleading’ public

They told the ASA that the ad for the television was “made in error” but that the prices for the electric toothbrush and the gaming monitor were accurate averages at the time of publication and that retail prices fluctuate constantly.

However, the ASA refuted this claim, saying that these price fluctuations “did not demonstrate that Amazon usually sold the [gaming monitor] at the higher price of £752.00”. They also said the data Amazon provided to support their RRP claim was “not sufficient” to suggest the products were generally sold at that price across the market.

“We told Amazon to ensure that future references to RRPs reflected the price at which the products concerned were generally sold, and to ensure that they held adequate evidence to substantiate their savings claims,” said the ASA.

 “Overwhelming majority” arrive on time

Amazon has said that their one-day delivery service is subject to terms and conditions that are clear on their About One-Day Delivery page. Here Amazon explains that one-day delivery depends on “the time of day that you place your order” as well as whether the item is in stock.

The ASA said the ads on Amazon’s website in December would lead the customer to assume that this “one-day delivery” would apply to all Prime-labelled items and that it was unlikely customers would find the information to suggest otherwise before signing up to Amazon Prime.

In their final ruling, the ASA said that customers

“were likely to understand that, so long as they did not order too late or for Sunday delivery, all Prime-labelled items would be available for delivery the next day with the One-Day Delivery option.

As a “significant proportion” of these Prime items were not in fact available for delivery by the next day “we concluded that the ad was misleading”.

An Amazon spokesperson has said an “overwhelming majority” of one-day delivery items arrive when promised but that “a small proportion of orders missed the delivery promise last year during a period of extreme weather that impacted all carriers across the UK” meaning they could not always meet their claim of one-day delivery in time for Christmas.

They also said that the expected delivery date is always shown before an order is placed and that Amazon “work relentlessly to meet this date”.