Empire have misled consumers... againWhich? exposes shopping company again

30 November 2005

A catalogue shopping company exposed by Which? for its misleading mailshots has fallen foul of the advertising watchdog for the fifth time in a year.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published a ruling today that Empire Stores misled consumers in a mailshot which stated on the envelope:'You're guaranteed a free electrical gift'.

The ASA said the envelope failed to say that recipients had to place an order to get their gift.

Expensive electrical items such as a DVD player and widescreen TV were listed as gifts, but anyone who spent less than GBP 1,500 on their order got only a cassette player. The ASA said this wasn't made clear as it was only in the small print. The mailshot was also found to be misleading on two other counts.

This is the fifth adjudication in a year by the watchdog against Empire Stores, whose parent company is Redcat (Brands) Ltd.

Persistent offender

An ASA spokesman said that five adjudications in a year was a 'significant' number, and described Empire Stores as a 'persistent offender'. However, he added that the company sent out a large number of different mailshots and some breaches of the rules were 'inevitable'.

In July this year, we exposed Empire Stores and its sister company Daxon for misleading shoppers. An Empire Stores mailing linked customers' claim numbers to a picture of a camcorder, implying they'd been awarded it. To claim, customers had to place orders. However, no-one got the camcorder and many got a pen and pencil, described as a 'mystery gift'.

Customer Evelyn Gormley said at the time:'I ordered a sheet for GBP 15 to claim my camcorder; a pen and pop-up pencil arrived. The pencil doesn't even work - the lead falls out.'

Empire offered customers a refund plus a discount on their next order.