Who: Committee of Advertising Practice (“CAP”)
When: 8 August 2013
Where: United Kingdom
Law stated as at: 9 September 2013
CAP has issued some useful new guidance in relation to advertising holidays which summarises some of the recent issues that have been raised by complainants and which the ASA has upheld.
The guidance is helpful not only for businesses selling holidays and related products, but also those who run promotions where one or more of the prizes is a holiday.
Choose your words (and pictures) carefully
It is clear from the guidance that those advertising holidays need to choose their wording carefully.
For example, Travelworld Vacations were recently on the receiving end of an upheld ASA adjudication for claiming on their website that a particular hotel was “ideal for families” when it was located on a busy street of bars and clubs. The ASA held that consumers would generally understand references to accommodation being “ideal for families” or “family friendly” as meaning that the accommodation would be particularly suitable for parents with children of school age and that, unless otherwise indicated, consumers would therefore not expect there to be loud noise throughout the night. The same ad was also sanctioned for stating that the hotel offered “24 hour room service” when what was really available was a twenty-four hour reception. Marketers should always bear in mind how the average consumer is likely to interpret a particular claim.
The guidance also reminds those advertising holidays that terms and conditions in small print should clarify rather than contradict claims in the body of an ad, and that marketers should bear this in mind when constructing their headline claims. The ASA recently upheld a complaint against Archant Life Ltd for making the headline claim “WIN A WEEK’S LUXURY FAMILY HOLIDAY” but stating in small print “excluding school and bank holidays”.
It is also important to consider whether the pictures used in an ad could make it misleading. Holiday Gems was recently criticised by the ASA for including a picture in an ad for a hotel stay in Malta that was a generic image of a building in Malta, supplied by the Maltese Tourist Authority, but which the complainant had reasonably mistook to be the hotel in question. Whereas the building in the image was on the waterfront, the hotel was not.
Quoted prices should relate to all of the information provided in an ad and contain all non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that apply to all or most buyers. VAT-exclusive prices may only be given if all those to whom the price claim is clearly addressed pay no VAT or can recover VAT, and such VAT-exclusive prices must be accompanied by a prominent statement of the amount or rate of VAT payable. If seasonal or other supplements might apply to a holiday then they must be adequately disclosed.
Marketers should be aware that, in the absence of the words “from” or “up to”, consumers are likely to understand that all bookings will be available at the quoted price or discount. Even where claims such as “from £300″ or “up to 40% off” are made, the ASA would expect the marketer to demonstrate that at least 10% of possible bookings are made available at the stated price or discount. Further, the availability at the “from” price or “up to” discount should be spread evenly across the advertised travel period. Iceland Tours Ltd recently had a complaint against it upheld by the ASA for making the claim “Iceland Whale Watching City Break From £299″ as the ASA had not seen evidence which showed that a minimum of 10% of seats for each tour were made available at the advertised “from” price.
Other points to note
The CAP guidance suggests that advertisers should be wary of promoting events which are subject to change or cancellation, for example as part of a tour itinerary, unless the details are clearly stated.
Finally, those running prize promotions should, as always, remember to include all key terms and conditions in their ads, such as closing dates, age restrictions and details of the exact nature of the prize. Often this is done via small print.
Why this matters:
The travel sector is extremely competitive and marketers are therefore always keen to make their claims as appealing as possible.
However, it is important that they remember to comply with the rules in the CAP Code, otherwise they could be on the receiving end of a damaging ASA adjudication. The new guidance from CAP is certainly welcome in helping marketers to navigate their way through common issues in this area.
The full CAP guidance is available here.