John Lewis' squeaky-clean image has been tarnished after it pulled an Apple Watch promotion from its website.
The department store disappointed a customer over its Black Friday sales event when it advertised Apple Watches on sale for £249, a price-match offer which was part of the retailer's promise to be "never knowingly undersold".
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However, when the customer tried to buy the watch, she found it was out of stock, and when she tried to order it again the next day, it was at full price again.
The advertising standards authority (ASA) said that John Lewis removed the offer from its website because the store was not certain it could fulfil the number of orders coming through. The offer then expired when John Lewis' competitor ended its promotion the next day, meaning John Lewis would no longer price-match the product at £249.
In its ruling, ASA said:
We considered John Lewis' action to make a product unavailable on their website while their competitor's promotion was still running denied online consumers the opportunity to purchase at the price-match price, despite John Lewis still having stock available.
We considered John Lewis had not conducted the promotion fairly, resulting in unnecessary disappointment.
The mix-up occurred at a particularly busy time for John Lewis - the business was continuously trying to match the prices of its peers over Black Friday weekend. The company told ASA that although the promotion could have been online for longer, the decision was "made in good faith".
John Lewis said in a statement: "We’re disappointed by the ASA’s decision. We believe this is due to a misunderstanding of the difference between a one day unplanned price match applied because of our "never knowingly undersold" policy and planned John Lewis four day Black Friday promotions. We are reviewing how we communicate multiple messages about prices and promotions to avoid any possible confusion happening again.
"We had very limited stock and continued to sell the watches in our shops, matching the competitor's promotion for the one day that it ran. Removing stock from sale is not a decision we would take lightly."