Pret a Manger told to rethink subscription ads after 5,000 complaints

UK advertising watchdog steps in after customers claim some drinks are unavailable

First published on Mon 20 Dec 2021 09.26 EST

Britain’s advertising watchdog has stepped in to referee a row over Pret a Manger’s drinks subscription service amid claims it has generated thousands of customer complaints.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has advised the coffee and sandwich chain to rethink how it advertises the £20-a-month service, which lets subscribers enjoy five barista-made drinks – including hot and iced coffees, teas, frappes, smoothies and hot chocolates – every day.

Some customers have complained they are often unable to get drinks such as smoothies via the deal, as some shops said they were unable to make them.

The BBC said it understood the chain – which has about 400 shops in the UK – had received about 5,000 complaints about the deal, which was launched in September 2020.

On Twitter, one customer said to Pret: “Every store in London never has smoothies or frappes available! But now I also find you never have whipped cream available! We use the Pret subscription and feel a little let down.” Another said: “Can confirm this as every time I try and get a cold drink with my subscription I’m told it doesn’t cover them.” One customer told BBC News that by mid-afternoon, the mango and pineapple smoothie that he liked was often not available.

The Advertising Standards Authority said that after receiving four complaints, it had sent an “advice notice” to Pret advising it to review the adverts for its subscription service, which state: “If our baristas brew it, blend it or steam it, you can have it!”

The ASA said: “We noted that their ads should not state or imply that the service was available in all store locations, or that it covers their entire range of products if that wasn’t the case.”

An advice notice is issued when the body considers that there are potential problems under its advertising rules, but does not consider the issues so significant that they warrant a full formal investigation.

A Pret spokesperson said that while its subscription service had proved “incredibly popular,” the company was “constantly working with our teams and customers to make it better, so that we’re able to continue to deliver the outstanding service our people are known for”.

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