Committees of Advertising Practice publish advice note on delivery charges in ads

The advice note makes clear that if you are stating prices for advertised products, or it would otherwise be misleading to omit it, then delivery charges must be stated. Delivery costs are material information (rule 3.4.4), i.e. information that will affect a consumer’s decision as to whether to purchase the product. Therefore, if a product is priced at £169, but there’s an additional charge of £25 for postage that is not made clear, or hidden in lots of terms and conditions, the ASA is likely to consider the ad misleading.

If delivery charges apply per product and the consumer cannot obtain the product without paying the delivery charges, then the cost should be included in the price of the product (rule 3.18).

If the consumer can obtain the product another way (i.e. collect it themselves or from a store) then it may be acceptable to make clear that charges apply for delivery and include the cost in a sufficiently prominent footnote. However, the ASA is likely to look unfavourably on retailers that rely on a very limited number of collection points as the reason for placing applicable delivery charges in a footnote.

If the charges apply per order then it is likely to be acceptable to make clear that these charges apply and state the cost in a prominent qualification (rule 3.20). In the case of an e-tailing website, it may be acceptable to state the relevant charges on a separate page, provided this page is clearly linked or signposted to from the stated price for the product.

Delivery charges that are only revealed during the “checkout” process or after the customer has made a transactional decision are likely to break the rules.

If it is not possible to calculate the delivery charge in advance, for example because it depends on the size and/or weight of the order, the amount ordered, the consumers’ location or other factors not known in advance of the consumer putting together their order, you need to make clear on the product pages that delivery charges are applicable, and also make clear how those charges will be calculated (rules 3.19 & 3.20).

If you cannot offer delivery at all to some locations then you need to make this clear upfront and avoid claims that imply that you can deliver to areas that you cannot, like “Great brands, anywhere you can get online”.

In short, marketers need to make it sufficiently clear in the headline claim(s) which areas are included and excluded and qualify this with how much it will cost to deliver to the excluded areas.

Absolute claims, such as , “Free UK Delivery”, “Free Delivery On All Orders” or “Free Next Day Delivery On All Of Your Orders This Month” imply that no customer, regardless of how much they buy or where they are, will incur delivery charges.

If a minimum spend applies this will need to be made explicitly clear in the headline claim (e.g. “Free delivery on orders over £40”). However, if marketers cannot offer this for all postcodes, this will also need to be made clear in the headline claim. Qualifications detailing exclusions are likely to be viewed as misleadingly contradicting rather than clarifying these claims.

Rule 3.24.1 makes clear that an item cannot be described as “free” if the customer has to pay packing, packaging, handling or administration charges. This means that marketers may charge postage for a “free” item as long as it reflects the true cost of the postage (for example, a stamp). However, as soon as you add handling, packaging, packing or administration fees, the item can no longer be described as “free”.

Finally, CAP says that the ASA is unlikely to look favourably on those charging excessive postage or packaging fees, if this does not reflect the true cost of postage, as this can make any product price claims misleading. Whatever amount you charge, make sure it is clear, honest and fair. To read the advice note in full, click here.