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Paying for magazine “gifts”? The ASA rules against


In another ruling by the Advertising Standards Agency (the ASA) in this area, the ASA has upheld a complaint against Practical Publishing International Ltd (trading as for the misleading use of the word “gift” to describe a promotional item included with a magazine. operate an online subscription store for craft magazines. A complaint was lodged with the ASA that the website frequently referred to promotional items (such as stamps and stencils) included with the magazines as “gifts”.

Meaning of a “gift” argued that in the magazine industry “gift” meant “something desirable that comes with the magazine” and was used as a “generic description of attractive value-adds”. argued that customers understood this as being different from the word “free”.

The ASA disagreed and held that consumers would understand the claim ‘gift’ to be synonymous with ‘free’. Therefore, to be classed as “gifts”, the promotional items must have a genuine additional benefit to the consumer when they purchase the magazine.

Pricing argued that the relationship between the price and the value of the magazine was obvious and that the gift was an integral part of the magazine package.

Again, the ASA disagreed. The ASA noted that the magazines did not have a regular price and that every issue of the magazine included a promotional item as an “exclusive gift”. The ASA concluded that the value of the promotional item could not genuinely be separated by consumers from the price of the magazine.


The ASA concluded that the promotional items attached to the magazines did not offer a genuine additional benefit received as a result of purchasing the magazines and, therefore, the claim ‘gift’ was misleading. The advertisement was in breach of rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.17 (Prices) and 3.24.2 (Free) of the CAP Code (Edition 12). The ASA requested that do not allow the advertisement to appear in its current form and to not claim or imply that such promotional items included with their magazines were “gifts” where the value of that element is included in the price.

This decision serves as a reminder to publications to take care where magazines include promotional items. When drafting any marketing materials, the text needs to clearly address whether the “gift” is actually “free” or whether the value of the item is reflected in the price of the magazine.

If you require further information about anything covered in this briefing, please contact Hannah Laird, or your usual contact at the firm on +44 (0)20 3375 7000.

This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

© Farrer & Co LLP, January 2020

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