Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and First Trenitalia West Coast Rail Ltd t/a Avanti West Coast (Avanti)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 15 June 2022
Law stated as at: 12 July 2022
A fare-finder page on a website for train company Avanti, as seen in August and November 2021, stated that Avanti could highlight its cheapest service for the consumer’s journey and guarantee “the best possible price“. A hyperlink was inserted alongside the various claims to “Our Price Promise” page, where supplemental claims (such as, “a price that can’t be beaten“, “Unbeatable prices” and “No need for shopping around or price comparisons“) and an explanatory text were provided. Two complainants, who had found cheaper tickets for Avanti journeys through third-party sales channels, challenged whether the claims – “a price that can’t be beaten” and “Unbeatable prices” – were misleading.
In response, Avanti said that the claims were accurate on the following grounds: the terms and conditions for the claims were linked to the same page; it was a statement of fact that their prices were “Unbeatable“, as they were set at the same price as all retailers; and any cheaper rates for the same journey would be price matched by Avanti. A cheaper purchase was, therefore, not possible.
The ASA held that the claims would lead consumers to believe that the fare finder could find them the cheapest tickets for the destination and time, Avanti would refund the difference in ticket prices if a consumer could find a cheaper ticket elsewhere – and it would not be possible for consumers to find a cheaper ticket. However, consumers were able to use third-party split-ticketing providers to determine if their complete journey (that is, from x to z) could be made cheaper by splitting the journey into a number of smaller journeys (that is, from x to y and then y to z). Although Avanti offered the cheapest price for these smaller journeys and included in their explanatory text that their offering applied to those journeys with only two end points, the text was found to be ambiguous.
This meant that consumers would believe that their complete journey could not be found at a cheaper price through any means. Consumers would, therefore, be discouraged from searching elsewhere for tickets and Avanti was found to be exaggerating their offering.
Consequently, the ASA held that the claims “the best possible price“, “a price that can’t be beaten“, and “Unbeatable prices” were misleading and that the ad must not appear again in the form complained of. In addition, Avanti must not claim or imply that their prices could not be beaten without adequate justification and clarity of terms.
Why this matters:
The ruling is a good reminder that price match offers must be carefully considered with any restrictions clearly noted or built into the tagline. Businesses must ensure that any advertising claims are unambiguous and are sufficiently clear as to what the offering comprises.