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Boob job voucher offer breached advertising codes

Updated ASA rules on Groupon offer
Wed Nov 23 2011, 15:35

AN ADVERTISEMENT that offered reduced price breast augmentation, but only for a limited period, has been criticised by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).

"Today's deal in Manchester. Today's deal: £1,999 Instead of £5,000 for Cosmetic Surgery Such as Breast Augmentation and Rhinoplasty at Birkdale Clinic. View now. For £1,999," said the emailed advert that redirected to a Groupon offer. "This deal is available until May 27, 2011 11:59 PM," it said.

The deal only lasted for that day, which suggests that users would have had to made a snap decision about whether they liked their boobs or not, and fancied saving £3,000 on an operation that they had not been planning until just then.

The ASA mentioned this in its summary, adding, "Further down the same page, the web page stated 'Altering the physique needs a lot of careful consideration, a substantial amount of initial information and is better performed by someone who nose [sic] best'".

"Groupon grippers are offered £5,000 towards a procedure of their choice for £1,999. Those over the age of 18 can take their carefully considered bodily modifications, including breast augmentation, along to an initial consultation at Birkdale Clinic. During this in depth professional consultation... doctors and patients come to informed decisions over suitable procedures ...".

This was challenged by a member of the public, and the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services, both of which suggested that the offer was "irresponsible because it encouraged recipients to hurry into a decision to purchase cosmetic surgery."

Groupon responded, reports the ASA, and said that it did not believe that the promotion, and email, "encouraged a frivolous or rushed decision to purchase the voucher." It explained that the timeframe was based on business models, and how long it expected it would take to sell the coupons, and not an indication of "pressure purchase tactics".

Groupon sent a follow up email to voucher purchasers in which it explained that there was a multi-stage process for the offer, which included the consultation and advice session. They were also offered a cooling off period, it added.

Groupon said that as of the end of September, 48 out of 186 consumers had cancelled their vouchers, 8 within seven days of buying the voucher.

The ASA said that Groupon had taken reasonable steps after the voucher had been purchased, but noted that the opportunity for more information was not available without buying the voucher first. It had some other issues about the appropriateness of the advert as well.

"Whilst the ad made clear that the offer was available only to over 18s, we understood that it may have been sent to those who had not previously considered having cosmetic surgery," it said.

"We considered the decision to undergo physically invasive procedures was one that required substantial consideration... We noted consumers only had 24 hours in which to buy the voucher and because of that, we considered that consumers buying the voucher would have already financially and mentally committed themselves to going ahead with a procedure."

Because of these concerns, and the limited time during which consumers had to make a decision, the ASA ruled that the ad was irresponsible.

We've asked Groupon for comment, and are still trying to talk some of our male journalists into buying coupons on expenses.

Groupon has responded to our questions and told the INQUIRER that is has made changes to the way it offers plastic surgery deals.

"We have moved quickly to address the ASA ruling and have already changed subsequent plastic surgery deals to extend the period they are available for. Groupon endeavours to ensure that all of our advertised deals meet the highest possible standards and are both responsible and provide clear information for our customers," it said in a statement.

"We are always striving to make the Groupon experience the best it can be and to ensure that the deals we offer are great value for our customers." µ



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