“Malmo with Ryanair from £14.99 each way” said a national press ad. Small print said “Fares exclude optional fees/charges”. Was this enough disclosure when using a non-Ryanair credit card meant a surcharge? Omar Bucchioni reports.
Who: Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Ryanair Ltd
When: September 2012
Law stated as at: 30 September 2012
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has recently adjudicated on a national press ad, for Ryanair, viewed on 10 February 2012. The ad was headed “MALMÖ WITH RYANAIR from £14.99 one way”. Text within the footnote stated “Book until midnight 13.02.12. Travel days: Mon-Thurs. Travel in Apr. Subject to availability. Terms and conditions apply, see Ryanair.com for details. Fares exclude optional fees/charges. Flights from London (Stansted)”.
A complainant raised a concern as to whether the price was misleading, because they understood that the price was only for customers paying with a Ryanair payment card, which came at a price) while customers using a non-Ryanair credit or debit card would be charged an additional fee.
What Ryanair had to say
Ryanair explained that the fare was available to all consumers who chose to avoid optional fees and charges and said the footnote made that clear. Also, depending on their country of residence, consumers could have avoided paying the booking fee by making payment using MasterCard Prepaid or Ryanair’s Cash Passport card.
In addition, Ryanair confirmed that there was an initial cost of £6 for the Cash Passport, but that was immediately redeemable against the cost of the first flight purchased using the card, provided the card was used within the first six months of issue.
What the ASA had to say
The ASA upheld the complaint.
They noted the footnote stating that the advertised fare excluded “optional fees/charges” and that the additional fee could have been avoided by those in possession of the Cash Passport. However, the ASA understood that consumers not in possession of the Cash Passport at the point of purchase would not immediately be able to purchase tickets (they had to apply for the card and wait for it to be delivered). As a result they may miss out on the opportunity of buying the flight at the advertised price.
In addition, the ASA found out that in order to use the Cash Passport, consumers were required to load the card with a minimum of £150 and that additional charges applied to its use. All these were material items of information which consumers needed in order to make an informed decision about the advertised price.
Since the surcharge was not avoidable at the point of purchase, unless a consumer was already in possession of the Cash Passport, and because, in order to obtain the advertised price, consumers were required to pay using the Cash Passport, which was subject to significant conditions not stated in the ad itself, the ASA ruled that the advertisement breached the Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.17 and 3.18 (Prices).
Why this matters:
Significant and material information capable of influencing consumers’ decisions must be made clear in all advertising messages. Here below is what the CAP Code rules relevant to this case say:
3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
3.3 Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means.
3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.
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