Ryanair recently complained to the Advertising Standards Authority over EasyJet ads promoting a lowest price guarantee and offering to refund double the difference if a lower price was found. But did offer restrictions and EasyJet not always being cheaper mean CAP Code issues? Omar Bucchioni reports the latest ASA case involving Ryanair.p
Who: easyJet, Ryanair and the Advertising Standards Authority
When: March 2008
Law stated as at: 31 March 2008
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Council has recently told easyJet not to repeat four easyJet internet summer fare advertisements and a press advert after a complaint from rival airline Ryanair.
The easyJet campaign promised that consumers would receive a refund doubling the difference in price if they could find a better deal elsewhere.
As the ASA website reports, the press ad showed an orange egg timer with the following text written on it: “Our best summer fares are disappearing fast Prices from £19.99 single inc. taxes!”
Text beneath the egg timer stated “Book by Friday and if you find it cheaper elsewhere we’ll refund DOUBLE the difference*”. Smaller text at the bottom of the page listed the terms and conditions: “Price correct at 30/05/07. Double the difference refund is on fare price only and is available on flights booked on www.easyJet.com between 00.01am on Monday June 4th 2007 and 22.59pm on Friday June 8 2007 only, for flights departing between 00.01 am June 1st and 23.59pm July 31st 2007. Offer applies to directly comparable flights only (same departure and destination airports departing within 1 hour of each other) … Claims must be made within 1 hour of booking. Maximum claim €100 or equivalent …”
One internet banner ad showed a picture of a sandcastle and contained the text “Our best summer fares are disappearing fast”. The other three banner ads had pictures of egg timers and the text “Prices from £19.99 single inc. taxes … Find it cheaper elsewhere and we’ll refund double the difference LOWEST PRICE GUARANTEE”.
Ryanair lodged a complaint with the ASA objecting the following points:
1. whether the ads were misleading because the Ts&Cs that applied to the “lowest price guarantee” were too restrictive to find comparable flights, and
2. whether the ads were misleading because the claim implied easyJet’s flights were always cheaper than other airlines.
EasyJet’s response was as follows:
(i) the Ts&Cs were explicitly stated on each ad and the ads were not misleading.
(ii) the ads did not claim easyJet was always cheaper and that the offer was open for a limited period of time as stated in the ads.
On point 1 the ASA considered that the ads were misleading – breach of CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation); 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 19.1 (Other comparisons). The reason was that the ads suggested the double the difference refund was easy to obtain when in fact the Ts&Cs suggested it was not. In addition to this, the ASA noted that easyJet had not sent evidence to show customers had been able to take up the offer.
On point 2 the ASA did not find the easyJet ads implied easyJet’s flights were always cheaper than those of their competitors. On the contrary this was a permissible price promise to provide a refund if cheaper comparable flights were found.
Why this matters:
The “upheld” decision shows that dangers lurk in broad claims suggesting a promotion is widely available when in fact the terms and conditions, no more matter how explicit and disclosed “up front” in the advertising, show that in reality this is not quite the case.
The “not upheld” finding underlines that if clearly and carefully presented a promise to refund the difference if a lower price is found does not carry with it any guarantee that the advertiser’s prices are generally lower.