ASA Adjudication on FASTCarhire.co.uk
2 River Court
Eel Pie Island
9 November 2011
Direct mail, E-mail
Number of complaints:
Search results, on a car-hire website, viewed in July 2011, showed the availability and price for renting cars from a number of different locations.
The complainant challenged whether the prices displayed on the website were misleading because, having booked a vehicle, he was informed that the car was unavailable at the price shown and was subsequently offered an alternative vehicle for a higher price.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
FASTCarhire said that the majority of their suppliers provided a rate sheet of prices for the car types available. They said that during the course of the year their suppliers informed them when cars became unavailable and that they updated their records on a daily basis, but that that was open to delay. They acknowledged that meant that in some instances their records on the availability of vehicles were inaccurate. They explained that upon receipt of a booking from a consumer, they would attempt to book the requested vehicle with their suppliers. They said that in instances where the vehicle requested was unavailable, consumers were offered an alternative vehicle which could be more or less expensive than their initial selection. They said that for that reason the consumer was entitled to cancel the booking. They explained that in the complainant's case, they attempted to book the vehicle requested and that that vehicle was sold out. They said that the supplier then offered the complainant an alternative vehicle at a slightly higher price.
FASTCarhire provided the ASA with a copy of the rate sheet for the supplier they attempted to use to book the complainant's vehicle. The rate sheet showed the charges which applied to each car category. They also provided sales vouchers, which covered the period between February and August, and for which the pickup point was the same as the complainant's. The vouchers showed that the consumers had paid the initial deposit, but that the balance was outstanding.
The ASA noted that, upon booking a vehicle, consumers were required to pay a refundable deposit. We understood that FASTCarhire then attempted to book the vehicle requested by the consumer. However, we noted that, as in the complainant's case, FASTCarhire may be unable to secure the vehicle requested. In that context, we considered the sales vouchers which showed that consumers had paid only the deposit were not sufficient to demonstrate that consumers had been able to secure the vehicles at the advertised price.
We also noted that only three of the sales vouchers provided related to cars from the same car category as the car which the complainant had attempted to book and that the sales vouchers showed that no cars were booked for the date range and car category requested by the complainant. In that context, we were concerned by FASTCarhire's explanation that the car the complainant had attempted to book had sold out.
We were concerned that, having attempted to book a vehicle, the complainant was informed that it was unavailable and was subsequently offered an alternative vehicle at a price which was £284 more expensive than the initial price advertised. We were also concerned by FASTCarhire's comments that, in the event that a booking was unavailable, consumers could be offered an alternative vehicle which was more expensive.
We noted that, despite FASTCarhire's acknowledgement that their records would on occasion be inaccurate, the ad did not make clear that FASTCarhire might not be able to supply the vehicle at the advertised price. We were also concerned that the ad did not make clear that any alternative vehicle might be more expensive.
Since we had not seen adequate evidence to demonstrate the availability of the vehicles advertised, and since the ad did not make clear that FASTCarhire may not be able to supply the vehicle at the advertised price, we concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.17 (Prices) and 3.28 and 3.29 (Availability).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told FASTCarhire to ensure that in all future ads they made clear any reasonable grounds for believing that an advertised vehicle might not be available at the advertised price. We also told FASTCarhire to ensure that they held adequate substantiation to demonstrate the availability of the vehicles advertised in future.