Skip to main content



Complaints about F&B ads jump 38% in 2022, more gripes on misleading info for various ads

Complaints about F&B ads jump 38% in 2022, more gripes on misleading info for various ads
Follow us on Instagram and Tiktok, and join our Telegram channel for the latest updates.
  • Complaints about food-and-beverage advertisements shot up by 38 per cent from 2021 to 2022
  • This was closely followed by complaints about restaurants
  • The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore said that these “increased in tandem” with patronage and reservations after Covid-19 restrictions eased in 2022
  • There was also an increase in feedback about various misleading advertisements

SINGAPORE — The number of complaints about food-and-beverage (F&B) advertisements jumped by 38 per cent from 2021 to last year, making it the most complained about industry in 2022, the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (Asas) said. 

Feedback for both F&B and restaurant advertisements “increased in tandem” with patronage and reservations after Covid-19 restrictions eased last year, the authority said on Monday (March 27) in a press release. 

There was also an increase in feedback about advertisements where the advertised percentage of a discount or rebate was unachievable due to the conditions imposed on the promotion, it added.

These involved banks, departmental stores and restaurants. 

For instance, during the Black Friday sale typically held in November, a departmental store’s banners on the homepage of its website stated that consumers could enjoy a 50 per cent discount on purchases above S$799 when using a promotional code. 

However, several complainants pointed out that the terms and conditions capped the discount at S$125, far less than the S$399.50 discount they expected for meeting the minimum spending requirement.  


As inflation continues to rise and people tighten their belts, many are becoming more sensitive to prices. 

This is especially so for bread-and-butter items such as food and groceries, which can have a significant impact on one’s daily expenses. 

In addition, with the rise of e-commerce platforms and online shopping, people frequently get caught up with impulse-buying and miss the fine print when they are hooked by misleading promotions.


Asas said that it received 303 reports of feedback last year and 304 in 2021. 

The feedback included requests for advertising advice and complaints that are consumer-to-business, government-to-business or business-to-business in nature.

At a glance, the reports of feedback across industries were: 

  • F&B – 36 in 2022, up from 26 in 2021 
  • Restaurants ­– 35 in 2022, up from 23 in 2021
  • Electrical and electronics – 25 in 2022, down from 26 in 2021 
  • Health – 21 in 2022, down from 25 in 2021 

The authority said that there was a jump in the proportion of feedback on F&B and restaurant advertisements, from 16.1 per cent in 2021 to 23.4 per cent last year. 

Of the feedback that it received, 24 cases involved promotions that the complainants said were not honoured during the purchase. 

For example, Asas told TODAY that it received a report in relation to a promotion on a food delivery application.

The complainant said the main menu stated that a pepperoni pizza from a fast-food restaurant was priced at S$12.

However, upon clicking on the advertisement, the complainant found that there was no way to buy the pizza at that price because all the options cost S$14.10 or more.

When Asas contacted the restaurant, it found that the outlet's staff member had wrongly deactivated the pepperoni pizza from the app.

The item was later reactivated on the app and the management counselled the staff member involved.

Another 20 cases concerned food items that did not match the advertisements or menus in appearance, price, quantity or size.

For example, a roast meat store stated on the storefront signage that the platters it sold included rice when it no longer did so. 

The complainant was informed by the workers that the menu was wrong. The business acknowledged that it missed out on changing the signage when it changed the menus and instructed its workers to black out the words “with rice” when Asas wrote to the company.

On such issues, Professor Ang Peng Hwa, chairman of Asas, said: “Rising costs are not an excuse for businesses to not update their advertisements and point-of-sale materials in a timely fashion and thus misleading consumers.”

He added that relying solely on employees to communicate changes in availability and prices is “not consistent, reliable or acceptable”.

Consumers who find themselves in this situation should take clear photographs of the advertisement, their receipt and the food they receive before consumption, Asas said.


Last year, there were 13 pieces of feedback on advertisements where consumers could not get the advertised discount or rebate because of the terms and conditions for the promotion.

Asas told TODAY that comparatively, in 2021, it received two instances of feedback on discounts that were not achievable.

For promotions offering large discounts or rebates, the headline figure of the promotion should be achievable by a meaningful number of people, Prof Ang said. 

He added that the advertiser should also be prepared to substantiate the claimed discount or rebate with examples or records when the authority requests it.

Associate Professor Lau Kong Cheen from the School of Business at the Singapore University of Social Sciences said that it is quite common for retailers or sellers to have these kinds of “misleading price promotions”, particularly smaller stores. 

This is because it is “easier for them to get away with it”, especially for small pop-up stores that are at a certain location for only a short period of time. 


On whether such promotions are more common during times of economic downturns, Assoc Prof Lau said that they are a perennial issue. 

The increase in complaints could be due to rising inflation instead, which pushes people to be more aware of price changes and notice such discrepancies during promotions. 

Agreeing, Ms Leung Sau Yee, a senior lecturer teaching digital marketing and branding at the Singapore Polytechnic, said that consumers are “feeling the pinch” from inflation and are more price-sensitive. 

“So retailers need to be in tune with such sentiments in the market and offer attractive prices. Some retailers may cross the line with misleading price promotion,” she said. 

Brands that are thinking of using such deceptive advertising should be wary. 

Assoc Prof Lau said that customers would lose trust in stores caught doing false promotion and some time may be needed before they regain trust in the brand. 

However, this depends on the store behind the promotion. If the brand is sold by a third party, the credibility of the third-party retailer will be affected, he added. 

Related topics

advertising F&B online shopping discount

Read more of the latest in




Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.