Virgin Experience Days has received an upheld ASA ruling for advertising a 46% saving for a meal for two at The Shard. The offending listing in question was titled “The View from The Shard and a Three Course Meal for Two at Marco Pierre White's London Steakhouse Co” that read "£95.00 ... SAVE 46% WAS £178.50".

Is it tickling your taste buds? Maybe not in the ASA's case.

The ASA found that the 'was' pricing was misleading for two reasons: 

1. It was unclear from the advert the basis of the saving. Consumers could be left wondering whether the 'was' pricing was a price at which Virgin Experience Days usually sold the package, which was not the case. 

2. The 'was' price had not been calculated on a like for like basis. The entry price to The Shard of £32 used to calculate the 'was' price was for walk in entry. Virgin Experience Days did not offer walk in entry, but had to be booked a minimum of 24 hours in advance and if consumers purchased advance tickets to The Shard it would only be £27.50 rather than £32. They had also based the 'was' price on the most expensive items on the à la carte menu, some of which had been removed for the experience menu. In any event, the ASA considered that not everyone would have purchased the most expensive items on each menu, so it was not appropriate to use such figures as a comparison.

The takeaways from this is that when setting a 'was' price, advertisers must make sure that consumers can easily understand the basis for that 'was' price. Do not be tempted to exaggerate the 'was' price to make the saving look better, it must be a genuine like for like comparison.   

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute has produced Guidance for Traders on Pricing Practices. Have a read through this to avoid that bitter taste in your mouth.