Content publisher (MSE) has been rapped by advertising watchdogs for its part in creating an online deal which resulted in many disappointed consumers.

The ‘journalistic website’, created by finance journalist Martin Lewis in 2003, which he subsequently sold last year to price comparison website, popped up twice this week on the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) weekly rulings.

As well as having a complaint, in relation to Hotspring Ventures Ltd upheld, regarding a misleading advert/sales promotion, it also got a telling off itself after a bunch of people were left without roses on Valentine’s Day.

Informed on Day of Delivery

After dishing out an email promoting an offer of 12 red roses, to be delivered by courier on Valentine’s Day for £12, a complainant (who no doubt got it in the neck for forgetting Valentine’s Day) challenged whether the promotion had been administered fairly, as she understood that on the day of delivery, MSE informed consumers that the suppliers would not be able to deliver all the orders.

According to the ASA ruling: “MSE stated that the delivery issues which beset Arena Online Ltd t/a Arena Flowers (Arena) were not foreseeable by themselves or, to the best of their knowledge, by Arena, and had not just affected MSE users, which represented a tiny percentage of Arena’s total Valentine’s Day customers.”

MSE stated that the delivery issue did not affect the ‘fairness’ of the deal that MSE had publicised. Instead, they believed that Arena had dealt very fairly with the affected customers and understood that they had offered to send them a bouquet of 24 roses the next day at no extra cost, as well as ensuring refunds were given to all customers who requested them.

They highlighted that some customers received both a full refund and a bouquet of 24 roses.

Although MSE asserted that they had very limited influence over, or visibility of, how orders were fulfilled by Arena, they did not consider that the promotion had been unfairly administered.

Arena implied that the mishap was rare and unusual, due to a string of issues that had occurred on the February 13, such as a power cut at its warehouse, the fact some of their cards were delivered to the wrong address and that their courier sent the last truck to the incorrect warehouse.

Plant Unhappy With Roses Fiasco Upshot

Speaking to PI, head of editorial at, Dan Plant, said: “We’re truly bewildered by the ASA’s decision. We’ve repeatedly asked it what it thinks we should have done differently, and it hasn’t given us a clear answer.

“Of course, we were gutted some of our users who ordered super cheap red roses at a discount via us from a huge flower firm were let down – we love a bit of romance. So as soon as Arena told us there was a problem, we kicked into action, to ensure people either got a no-quibble refund or a  bigger bunch of flowers another day.”

Plant said MSE is at a loss as to how this means it miscommunicated the deal or conducted the deal unfairly.

“We can’t be expected to foresee the unforeseeable. It’s a bit like telling an airline off for mis-advertising a flight, because on the day it’s due to take off the airport’s blocked by snow,” he added.

The ASA ruling concluded: “We noted that MSE had chosen to post information alerting their users to the fact some deliveries would not arrive on time on the morning of February 14, but considered it was unlikely that consumers who had taken advantage of the offer would visit the site and see the update.

“We therefore considered it was conceivable that a MSE user who had taken advantage of the offer could have not read the email from Arena until the afternoon or evening of February 14 when it was too late to locate a replacement bouquet, and then, if they had decided to wait until the February 15, they might not have received their bouquet on that date either. We therefore considered that the promotion had not been administered fairly and was in breach of the Code.”

MSE confirmed that although it featured on the ASA, content on MSE is written by in-house journalists and is not based on advertising. Plant stressed that appropriate content is sourced, and affiliate links are then sought.