Marketers should be able to provide evidence to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on request, should not mislead, should not quote inaccurate prices and should be able to demonstrate adequate availability.
Ensure your prices are accurate
Prices should not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion and the price that the customer sees in the ad should be the price which they ultimately are charged. If a customer finds that an advertised price is no longer available or that there are additional costs added during the booking process then this will be problematic. Any non-optional charges, including taxes, duties, fees and supplementary costs should be included in the quoted price. (BAI (UK) Ltd, 31 July 2013 and Mark Warner Ltd, 1 May 2013). VAT exclusive prices can only be given if all those to whom the price claim is addressed pay no VAT or can recover VAT. Such VAT-exclusive prices must be accompanied by a prominent statement of the amount or rate of VAT payable”.
When stating a ‘from’ price, advertisers must be able to demonstrate a significant proportion of the product available at the advertised price. Marketers will be expected by the ASA to provide accurate evidence of advertised prices, and it may be useful for marketers to ensure that they have reliable processes in place to monitor these.
Avoid misleading descriptions
Descriptions for travel products, including flights, seats, destinations, accommodation, facilities or amenities included in the price and transfers should not mislead the customer (The Oriental Travel Company Ltd, 17 April 2013). Ads should include all qualifying information, and these qualifications should not contradict the headline claim. The ASA upheld a complaint about an ad which stated, “Europe one way from £49*” because, despite small print qualifying that this price applied to selected German destinations only, this small print contradicted the headline claim, and consumers were likely to interpret this as a price which applied to the whole of Europe (Deutsche Lufthansa AG, 30 October 2013).
The ASA upheld complaints about an ad which described a holiday as “ideal for families”, along with a list of amenities such as 24 hour room service, because many of the listed amenities were not provided, and the hotel was on a busy road with bars. The ASA felt that consumers would find the description “ideal for families” misleading (Travelworld Vacations Ltd, 05 June 2013). Similarly, an ad for a hotel which was described as a “Secluded Haven” was upheld, because there were ongoing construction works (Kuoni Travel Ltd, 04 October 2017). Marketers should also ensure that the photos which they feature in their ads are representative (Hayes & Jarvis (Travel) Ltd, 4 March 2015).
Ads should not imply that a flight is return if it is one-way. In general, consumers are likely to understand that a quoted fare relates to a return journey, unless otherwise stated. Flights that are sold as return journeys only should make this clear, and the price of the return journey should not be halved to quote a misleading one-way fare if it is not possible to buy the flight one-way.
Include all material information
As well as ensuring that descriptions are accurate, Code rule 3.3 states that ads must not mislead by omitting material information. Material information is information which will affect a consumer’s transactional decision. Marketers should include all information about the product advertised, including dates, airports, flights times, airlines and accommodation. An ad for a sale on flights was upheld because it did not state that the promotion only applied to flights out of London Gatwick on the outbound leg of a return journey (Norwegian Air Shuttle, 16 April 2014). The ASA also ruled against a press ad for Flybe, which stated “Flybe’s Massive January Sale” and listed 70 destinations with their corresponding prices, because it omitted the departure airports to which the prices applied (Flybe Ltd, 6 April 2011). A complaint about an ad for British Airways was upheld because the ad, which offered direct flights, did not make it clear that the flight included en-route stops, or any information about these stops, which was considered material information (British Airways plc, 30 July 2014).
Ensure adequate availability
Marketers should be able to demonstrate that a significant proportion of flights and other travel products are available at the lead-in price, including ‘from’ prices, and consumers should have a reasonable chance of obtaining the products at the advertised price (Iceland Tours Ltd, 24 July 2013). A complaint about a Southall Travel ad which stated “Per Adult from £443 … Extremely Limited Subject to Availability” was upheld in 2017 because the ad did not make clear that the quoted price was indicative of the last price update, rather than the current available price, and because the ad did not state when that update had occurred (Southall Travel Ltd, 21 June 2017). Marketers must not exaggerate the availability of prices, or mislead by including contradictory small print. Marketers must also ensure availability at prices stated for specific search criteria.
Check the comparative rules when making comparisons
Marketers wishing to make a comparison with competitors should note that there are specific rules on comparisons made with identifiable competitors and all other comparisons. Claims such as “best”, “leading”, “cheaper” or “cheapest”, “more flights than other airlines”, “highest customer rankings” and any other claims which make a comparison will be subject to these rules.
Agents that offer optional travel insurance using comparisons with other insurance providers should ensure that their comparison neither misleads nor is likely to mislead. Savings claims should be accurate, generally representative and up-to-date.
In general, the ASA will regard a No.1 claim or claims which are synonymous with this, to mean “best-selling”, unless indicated otherwise. In 2014 the ASA ruled that Soltair Ltd, who did not have evidence to substantiate that they were the best-selling, should prominently disclaim the registered trademark “Soltair – First choice for single travellers” so that it was made clear that the company did not have a higher turnover and more unit sales than other single traveller companies (Soltair Ltd, 30 July 2014).
Marketing promotional offers
Marketers must ensure that promotions are advertised in line with the Promotional Marketing rules, that offers are genuine and meaningful and that they have evidence to substantiate any prices.
They should include all information which is likely to affect a consumers understanding of the offer, such as a closing date (Code rule 8.17).
Flights or seats should only be described as ‘free’ if the advertiser covers all taxes and fees. If there are any non-optional costs to the customer, the use of “free” will be in breach of the Code.
Marketers should hold evidence to demonstrate that a savings claim or discount is genuine. If using a ‘was’ price, they must be able to demonstrate that the saving advertised is meaningful, by having evidence to show that this is the price that the consumer would have genuinely had to pay before the saving was made.
Hold sufficient evidence
As with all advertising, marketers for travel products must ensure that they hold evidence to substantiate all objective claims, including price.
See Advertising Guidance on Travel Marketing, and other “Travel” entries
Source: Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)
Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s Advice Online entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
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