John Lewis broke advertising rules by withdrawing cut-price Apple Watch
John Lewis has been told to ensure it deals fairly with shoppers in future after its Black Friday promotion on an Apple Watch breached advertising rules.
The department store advertised the watch for £249 on its website in a price match promotion during the Black Friday event in November, flagged with a prominent announcement on the home page.
However, a woman who tried to buy the watch at the lower price but found it was listed as out of stock complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the promotion was unfair.
John Lewis said it removed the watch from sale following an unprecedented increase in sales as a result of the price drop because it was unsure if it had enough stock to fulfil demand on that day.
The retailer said it returned the watch to full price the next day because the competitor's promotion had ended.
It agreed that online availability of the watch was removed earlier than it could have been.
But it said the decision was made in good faith in the context of significant sales increases on Black Friday, which was not its busiest day of the year.
The ASA said sales of any product were likely to increase if the price was lowered temporarily and that there would therefore be an increased risk that it would sell out.
It said: "We acknowledged that the offer arose from John Lewis' Price Match policy rather than a price promotion they had planned.
"However, while we acknowledged the surrounding circumstances, we considered John Lewis' action to make a product unavailable on their website while their competitor's promotion was still running denied online consumers the opportunity to purchase at the Price Match price, despite John Lewis still having stock available.
"We considered John Lewis had not conducted the promotion fairly, resulting in unnecessary disappointment. We therefore concluded that the promotion had breached the code.
"We told John Lewis to ensure they dealt fairly with consumers in future.
"We told them to avoid causing unnecessary disappointment and not to withhold availability of promotional stock."
A John Lewis spokeswoman said: "We're disappointed by the ASA's decision.
"We believe this is due to a misunderstanding of the difference between a one-day unplanned price match applied because of our Never Knowingly Undersold policy and planned John Lewis four-day Black Friday promotions.
"We are reviewing how we communicate multiple messages about prices and promotions to avoid any possible confusion happening again.
"We had very limited stock and continued to sell the watches in our shops, matching the competitor's promotion for the one day that it ran.
"Removing stock from sale is not a decision we would take lightly."