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Steam’s ‘misleading’ Grand Theft Auto V sale runs afoul of UK authority

The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK has reprimanded Steam creator Valve over “misleading” sales tactics used to promote Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V during this year’s Steam Summer Sale.

The ASA issued its findings after receiving multiple complaints from consumers, who claimed that Valve’s advertised 25-percent-off sale did not actually represent a significant drop in price for Grand Theft Auto V, due to a deceptive bundling of in-game currency.

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According to the ASA, Rockstar dropped the price of a newly released Grand Theft Auto V bundle packaged with in-game cash while making it appear as though the standalone game was on sale. Compared to the full-priced standalone release, the bundle represented a savings of only £1.01, rather than a more substantial discount as promised.

Complicating matters, the standalone version of Grand Theft Auto V was mistakenly discounted in the early hours of the sale before returning to full price. The ASA upheld one of two charges of misleading advertising after an initial investigation.

“Because a 25% saving was not available on the usual selling price of the product at the time the ad appeared, as claimed, we concluded that it was misleading,” the ASA stated. “On this point, the ad breached [Committee of Advertising Practice] Code.”

Similar charges of misleading advertising levied against Wolfenstein: The New Order were not upheld, as an investigation did not substantiate an alleged breach of CAP Code.

Allegations of misleading advertising follow a different procedure and result in varying levels of scrutiny in the UK, compared to North America and other parts of the world. As a result of its findings, the ASA requested that Steam refrain from advertising similarly misleading discounts in the future.

“The ad must not appear again in its current form,” the organization concluded. “We told Steam to ensure their future savings claims did not mislead about the benefits available.”