We have had a long period where the 2010 Pricing Practices Guide (PPG), not to mention its predecessors, has been the easily understood and readily available check for email marketing pricing. It was prescriptive and as long as its provisions, such as the ’28-day rule’ were followed we could be confident we complied with the regulations.
The PPG has been replaced by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Guide to Pricing Practices (The Guide), which brings in a fundamental change in the way pricing will be judged. It is long overdue as the PPG has been subject to a number of criticisms that many felt were justified, most notably the Which? ‘super complaint’ about supermarket pricing.
Like the PPG, The Guide is not law, the title being precise. However like, for instance, the Highway Code, regulators will almost certainly continue to look at it as a method of judging whether a price in your latest email marketing campaign is compliant.
The CTSI have stated that they wish to move away from ‘safe harbours’ and in this they have delivered. What is required now is for companies to prove that their pricing is not misleading rather than pointing to compliance with a set of rules.
The Guide does not discard examples and there are clear cut price comparisons that are, in The Guide’s opinion, misleading. However, they are rather broad and are unlikely to be used for specific pricing legal challenges.
What companies now need to do is to detail the process of deciding on a particular offer price. They will have to show the history of pricing of the product over a period that is relevant to the offer. This cannot be seen as onerous as, one assumes, these details will be available, if not readily so, then now is the time to look to your systems.
The Guide is not without its critics. One glaring exclusion is the lack of practical advice.
What is clear is that it is now down to individual companies to show, perhaps even prove, that pricing claims are fair and not misleading. We will return to The Guide in future articles.