ASA Adjudication on Holiday Extras Ltd
Holiday Extras Ltd
8 August 2012
E-mail, Internet (on own site)
Holidays and travel
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were 'Upheld'.
Claims, related to airport parking, on the Holiday Extras website and in a promotional e-mail:
a. The website www.holidayextras.co.uk included the text "... BEST PRICE GUARANTEE - FREE airport parking* ...". It also included a logo that carried the text "BEST PRICE GUARANTEE". Further text stated "If you find the same parking or hotel product or package of products for less within 24 hours of making your booking with HolidayExtras.com, then tell us and we'll give it to you FREE*". A hyperlink below stated "(*Terms and conditions apply)". Text above the heading "Best Price Guarantee", which appeared above the terms and conditions, stated "… At Holiday Extras, we compare hundreds of prices each week to bring you some fantastic deals. In fact, we are so confident that we offer the BEST PRICE that if you find the same product cheaper within 24 hours of making and paying for your booking with Holiday Extras, we'll give it to you absolutely FREE* (*see terms and conditions below).
b. The e-mail included the text "10% off Airport Parking + Best Price Guarantee". The "BEST PRICE GUARANTEE" logo appeared twice and further text stated "... And we guarantee that our prices can't be beaten ... BEST PRICE GUARANTEE Find airport car parking spaces or airport hotel rooms for less and we'll give them to you for free+". Small print, which included a hyperlink, stated "+Best Price Guarantee terms and conditions apply".
1. The complainants challenged whether the claims that bookings would be given for free if the same deal was found cheaper were misleading, because they had found cheaper alternatives to meet and greet car park bookings but the advertised guarantee had not been honoured.
2. One of the complainants also challenged whether the claims "… we offer the BEST PRICE …" in ad (a) and "… we guarantee that our prices can't be beaten" in ad (b) were misleading and could be substantiated, because he believed they implied Holiday Extras offered the lowest prices whereas he understood they offered only a price promise.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Holiday Extras Ltd (Holiday Extras) said they had taken over two million airport bookings in the previous year and their complaint ratio was currently less than 0.1%, which they believed indicated that consumers understood the offer. They said the 'best price guarantee' offer was genuine and was intended to ensure customers could reclaim the cost of their booking if they satisfied the criteria. They said they had given refunds to over 1,000 customers in the previous three years.
Holiday Extras said the product being compared had to be the same in every respect, because while they could ensure they sold contracted services at the best available rates they could not do so in relation to other non-contracted services. They therefore insisted that the comparison was with the same car park or meet and greet operator, in particular because some meet and greet operators were unlicensed and stored cars in inappropriate locations. They said the complainants' claims had been rejected, because the quotations they had submitted related to products that were not the same in every respect; for example, the car storage arrangements located by one complainant and the supplier found by another were not the same as those provided by Holiday Extras. They acknowledged that meet and greet parking presented a particular challenge, in that the identity of the service provider and the location of the parking appeared to be of less importance to consumers and were a less accessible point of comparison than, for example, the name of a hotel or location of a car park. They said those factors were, however, important indicators that the product was the same in every way as well as of the quality of service and security.
Holiday Extras said they accepted that consumers did not necessarily understand that not all meet and greet services were the same and had therefore endeavoured to make their position clear via their terms and conditions, which were easily accessible via hyperlinks in the ads and set out in other areas of their website. They said they were, however, keen to improve the clarity of that message in the terms and conditions and, if necessary, elsewhere. They said they therefore intended to include the text "… for example the same hotel, car park or the same meet and greet operator" in their terms and conditions and would consider how that could be adapted to provide clarification on the same page as the claim itself.
2. Holiday Extras acknowledged the contradiction in stating that they offered the best prices but also that they would refund anyone who could prove the contrary. They said, however, that was an indication that they might be caught out and that they would ensure customers could benefit if that was the case. They did not consider the claims to be misleading, because they had many satisfied customers who had clearly understood the nature of the offer and the restrictions they imposed were not unreasonable. They said their monitoring of complaints they received indicated that the majority of customers had understood the offer. Holiday Extras believed they could substantiate the claims that they offered the best prices, because they would not make such an offer if they did not have considerable confidence that it would stand up to rigorous testing. They said prices were checked regularly and any disparities were addressed as a matter of urgency. Holiday Extras said they had amended the offer to state that the booking would be free if consumers could find the same deal cheaper.
The ASA acknowledged that both ads included a hyperlink to the terms and conditions of the offer, which stated "The parking, hotel or lounge product, or package of products that you are comparing must be the same in every respect as that which you purchased from Holiday Extras". Although we considered it was reasonable to expect consumers' claims to be based on a like-for-like comparison, we noted the ads did not make clear that the products compared had to be the same in every respect and, for example, that they must be with the exact same meet and greet operator that Holiday Extras used. We considered that was a significant condition of the promotion and that it should have been made clear in the ads themselves that the comparison product had to be the same in every respect, including details of the extent to which they had to be the same, to qualify. Because the ads did not make clear a significant condition of the promotion, we concluded that they were misleading.
On this point, ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 (Qualification).
We acknowledged Holiday Extras had amended their advertising. We noted the claims "… we offer the BEST PRICE …" and "… we guarantee that our prices can't be beaten" were intended to relate to the price promise. We considered, however, the claims were likely to be interpreted as being lowest price claims, rather than as relating only to a price promise. We considered that if marketers claimed to always offer the lowest prices they should use a price monitoring and adjustment policy to ensure the claims could be supported. We considered a price promise did not justify a lowest price claim in the absence of an adequate monitoring and adjustment policy and considered advertisers should be in a position to substantiate lowest price claims. We noted we had not seen any evidence that Holiday Extras always offered "…the BEST PRICE …" and that their prices could not "… be beaten" and therefore concluded that the ads breached the Code.
On this point, ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.9 (Qualification) and 3.38 (Other comparisons).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Holiday Extras to ensure significant conditions of promotions were made clear in future ads. We also told them not to make lowest price claims in future, unless they were in a position to substantiate them.