The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have upheld one claim (and rejected another) of “misleading advertising” in Steam’s most recent summer sale.
Sale deals for Grand Theft Auto V and Wolfenstein: The New Order were questioned by customers, who felt that in both cases the base price for the game had been inflated before discounts were applied, making the deal appear more attractive than reality. Additional complaints were made regarding Grand Theft Auto V, on the grounds that the sale deal applied to a ‘package’ (which included a ‘Great White Shark Cash Card’) rather than just the game itself.
This latter concern was the one upheld by the ASA as “misleading advertising” under their own guidelines.
GTA V had been advertised as “-25% £51.98 [crossed out] £38.98”, but the usual price of the game was £39.99. It only became a 25% off deal due to the inclusion of a bundled in-game currency ‘Shark Card’ for Grand Theft Auto Online. There was no way to purchase just GTA V at a reduced price.
The ASA accepted Valve’s explanation that Grand Theft Auto V had been priced in error for a three hour period, and also accepted that the Wolfenstein: The New Order sale deal of “-75% £34.99 [crossed out] £8.74” accurately represented the usual selling price of the game.
However, on the subject of GTA V’s pricing, the ASA had this to say:
“We noted the claims for the game stated that consumers could make a saving of 25% on the previous price of £51.98, which we considered would be understood to represent a genuine saving against the usual selling price of the product at the time the ad appeared. However, we understood that was not the case and it had instead been sold by Steam at £39.99, rather than £51.98, since the date of its launch. Because a 25% saving was not available on the usual selling price of the product at the time the ad appeared, as claimed, we concluded that it was misleading.”
In terms of authority, the ASA’s powers generally extend to getting companies to pull infringing advertisements in the UK and relying on the poor publicity of an ASA breach to encourage companies to comply in future. The GTA V sale advert has obviously already been and gone, but the ASA’s ruling implies that they hope to not see similar misleading ads in future: “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Steam to ensure their future savings claims did not mislead about the benefits available.”