Marketers of flight and other travel promotions should comply with the Promotional Marketing Rules of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code. Broadly speaking, promoters should avoid unnecessarily disappointing consumers and ensure that they have enough resources to administer the promotion effectively, that they have made a reasonable estimate of the likely response to their promotions and can fulfil this or make the limitation clear, that any pricing and savings claims are accurate, and that the ad includes all significant conditions which are likely to influence a consumers understanding of the offer.
Promotors are responsible for all aspects and stages of their promotions and must ensure that they have the resources in place to administer the entire promotion effectively (rules 8.1, 8.14 and 8.15). This includes advertising the promotion, accepting entries, selecting winners and awarding prizes. Advertisers must deal fairly with potential participants and must not cause unnecessary disappointment (8.2). The ASA has upheld multiple travel promotion investigations which were administered poorly or where participants had not been dealt with fairly and honourably. A twitter had for a competition to win a £5000 voucher with Thompson holidays was upheld because the ad did not include a closing date, did not have an operational link to the full terms and conditions and did not make it clear that there were multiple entry routes and as such the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) considered that the advertised promotion had not been dealt fairly and honourably with participants (Thomas Cook Retail Ltd, 18 October 2017).
Prizes must be awarded as described, or if this is not possible due to circumstances outside of the advertisers control a reasonable equivalent must be awarded. The ASA received a complaint from the winner of a competition which advertised the prize of a seven night stay in a large luxury cottage in Cornwall because they were told that the prize could not be awarded and instead were offered a four night stay in a hotel for two. In this case the ASA did not consider this alternative prize reasonable and the ad breached of the Code (Engine House Media Ltd t/a Cornwall Living, 16 September 2015).
Code rules 8.9 to 8.13 cover availability in promotional marketing. Promoters must make a reasonable estimate of the likely response and be able to demonstrate they have done so. In addition, promoters must show they were either capable of meeting that response, or, if they know that they cannot supply demand, that consumers were given appropriate information regarding availability to decide whether participate. Simply stating “subject to availability” is unlikely to be sufficient.
An ad for a promotional offer on hotel rooms which stated “Enjoy Black Friday one week early with our exclusive offer…£119 for all our London hotels” was upheld because the advertiser could not demonstrate that they had made a reasonable estimate of demand and because the ad included no details regarding any limits on the availability of rooms at this price (Park Plaza Hotels Europe BV, 19 April 2017).
If, having a made a reasonable estimate of demand, promoters know they will not be able to meet it the Code requires that sufficient information, presented clearly and in a timely fashion is provided to so that consumers can make an informed decision on whether or not to participate.
The ASA ruled against a hotel website which continued to feature hotels which no longer had any availability as part of the promotion but were still advertising availability and allowing selection of the menu without further information (VUR Village Trading No 1 Ltd t/a Village Hotels, 27 April 2016).
Rule 8.17 of the CAP Code lists some of the significant conditions which should be included in the initial marketing communication, for example in the small print. What the significant conditions are for a particular promotion will vary case by case, but advertisements that do not include the significant conditions relevant to that offer, such as a closing date, how to participate, the entry route or any restrictions on entry, are likely to breach the Code.
The ASA has previously investigated ads which omitted the travel period for the promotion (Air Malta plc, 16 February 2011), and which omitted details regarding weekend supplements or other charges (BAI (UK) Ltd, 31 July 2013 and Mark Warner Ltd, 1 May 2013). An ad which stated “All our luxury resorts are from £99 per person … 5 star Luxury Accommodation at RCI” was ruled against because the complainant found that this price was only available to those who attended a timeshare sales presentation, and this information was not included in the ad (Easy Consulting SL t/a directresortinternational.co.uk, 06 January 2016).
A complaint about an ad for a competition to win an all-inclusive holiday which appeared in a disability lifestyle magazine was upheld because it did not make it sufficiently clear that consumers who used a wheelchair may be unable to access the accommodation. The ASA considered that, in the context of a disability lifestyle magazine accessibility was a significant condition which was likely to influence a consumer’s decision about entering the promotion and therefore should have been included in the ad (Go Provence Supported Holidays Ltd t/a Go Provence, 04 October 2017).
Marketers should hold evidence to demonstrate that a savings claim or discount is genuine. If using a reference price, such as 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. Recency, pricing history, sales data, sales and distribution channels will all affect whether a higher price is sufficiently established as a usual selling price. The ASA upheld a ruling against Purpleholidays.com because they did not provide the evidence to demonstrate that the full price or the promotional prices were achievable and could not demonstrate that the saving claim was accurate (Purpleholidays.com, 30 August 2017).
Marketers should also make clear that a promotional price will apply to only some flights on certain routes.
See Promotional Savings Claims for further guidance.
Marketers wanting to offer ‘free’ flights or seats can do so only if there are genuinely no costs to the consumer, such as taxes or charges (Aer Lingus Ltd, 21 January 2009).
This will be the case if the words or phrases used in the ad are synonymous with the word free, even if marketers do not directly state “free”. Words which are likely to be interpreted by consumers as meaning free are “giveaway”, “gift”, “pay nothing”, and similar (MGN Ltd and Ryanair Ltd, 23 June 2004).
Claims which are likely to be acceptable are “tax only”, “flights for the cost of the tax” or similar, as are more subjective claims such as “cheap flights” and “bargain fares.”
If a marketer covers the costs of taxes or fees, meaning that the flight is genuinely free, it is likely to be fine to state free flights or seats. In 2013, the ASA ruled that an ad which stated, “Fly for Free – If we can’t find you a cheaper airfare in the same cabin, you’ll fly for free!” was not misleading because the marketer did award free flights where they could not beat a quoted fare, in line with the claim. (Flight Centre (UK) Ltd, 11 September 2013). See Promotional Marketing: Free.
Marketers should be careful not to state or imply that a holiday is suitable for a family, unless that holiday is available during the school holidays. The ASA ruled that an ad promoting a family break during term-time irresponsibly encouraged parents to take their children out of school (Center Parcs Ltd, 23 April 2014).
One marketer informed a consumer who had won a “family holiday” that she was not eligible for the prize because she wanted to take her sister’s children on holiday. The ASA considered that readers were likely to understand that the promotion was for a family holiday which would mean that adults could also take children over whom they might not have parental responsibility, and that the relevant exclusion should have been stated in the initial communication (News Group Newspapers Ltd, 12 June 2013).
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.
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