Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and DFDS Seaways
Where: United Kingdom
When: 4 May 2023
Law stated as at: 17 October 2023
The ad was featured on a page of the DFDS Seaways website, www.dfds.com, on May 4, 2023. The page was titled “Ferry Crossings Newcastle – Amsterdam” with text stating “From £47 pp one way + car.” At the bottom of the page, under the “FAQ” section, it was mentioned “Our general crossing prices currently start from £47 pp. They are calculated as one-way with 4 people per cabin and car.” The complainant was unable to find any fares at the advertised £47 price, and they challenged whether the claim “From £47” was misleading.
In response to the complaint, DFDS Seaways explained that the £47 ticket was only available when four places were booked in a four-person cabin, and therefore this price was not applicable as a single fare. Furthermore, they explained that their standard disclaimer text, which clarified this point, had been omitted from the page due to human error. They acknowledged this mistake and promptly updated the page to include this essential information.
DFDS Seaways emphasised that their fares operated on a flexible pricing model, which took into account availability, demand, and the initial advertised price. Importantly, consumers could search for tickets based on departure dates but not on price. As a response to the complaint, they committed to testing user-friendly overview tables to help customers identify travel dates where the advertised price and other fare classes were available.
The ASA ultimately upheld the complaint, stating that the claim “From £47 pp one way + car” would reasonably lead consumers to believe that a one-way ticket for one person with a car space could be purchased for £47. This led to an expectation of the availability of a significant number of tickets at this price. Although there was explanatory text in the FAQ section, the ASA held that it was not prominently displayed due to its position at the bottom of the page, nor did it explicitly state that the offer was only valid when a four-person group booked a cabin.
Additionally, while the ASA welcomed DFDS Seaways’ efforts to address the issue, they believed that the qualifying information in the amended ad was insufficient as it was not prominent enough and did not clearly state that the offer was only applicable when four people booked the cabin. Therefore, it was held to be a misleading advertisement. The ASA found that DFDS Seaways had breached several provisions of the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) (3.1, 3.9, 3.10, 3.17 and 3.22).
Why this matters:
This ruling is an important reminder on some of the key requirements for making price claims, including ensuring that the headline claim is not misleading (even if there is disclaimer word), sufficient availability of an offer, and disclaimer language is included prominently. The ruling underscores the importance of ensuring that consumers can confidently make informed decisions based on the information presented. In any case, advertisers should make certain that marketing communications display qualifying text clearly and close to the ad it relates to, which will help avoid ambiguity and misunderstanding among consumers.