Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
In addition to any pricing legislation that they might have to comply with, the CAP Code requires marketers to include all non-optional taxes and charges in advertised prices (Rules 3.18, 3.19 and 3.21).
In December 2001, the ASA ruled that that principle should apply to ticket prices. In advertisements that name specific sales outlets, the ASA ruled that it was not enough merely to quote the face value of the ticket and state in a footnote that the price was subject to additional and undisclosed fees. In short, if each ticket is subject to an extra charge, that charge should be included in the advertised price of tickets. If each transaction is subject to an extra charge, irrespective of the number of tickets purchased, that fee (and not just its existence) should be stated clearly at key points during the purchasing process. Marketers may state solely the face value of a ticket without qualification only if no extra charges (such as booking fee, transaction charge, credit card fee, etc.) exist for any booking method featured in the advertisement. If the face value varies, for example by quality of seat, the lowest price should be stated as a “from” price.
In its investigation into a theatre production’s website, the ASA considered a one-off transaction fee that was levied on internet and phone bookings. Because it was unrelated to the number of tickets bought the fee could not be incorporated within individual ticket prices. Despite it being possible to avoid paying the transaction fee by purchasing tickets at the box office, the ASA considered that most consumers would understand the price to refer to all methods of purchasing; it considered claims like "book now" compounded the impression that the prices shown on the website were available for telephone or internet bookings (AKA Group Ltd (27 February 2013).
Although it might be good practice, it is not always possible, or necessary, to quote one-off fees at every stage of the transaction process, for example, each page of a website booking form. But at a minimum, where a price claim appears for the first time it should be immediately and clearly qualified with a reference to the existence, and amount, of the booking fee. This can be done, for example, by stating "plus booking fee for phone/web bookings*" and linking an asterisk to information that includes the amount. The ASA adopted this principle in two other adjudications Ambassador Theatre Group Ltd t/a ATG Tickets and Old Vic Productions (27 February 2013). In the latter case, the marketers were asked to amend the prices stated in a ‘hover-over’ box on the website.
In the same month, the ASA investigated the “Online Booking” section of a theatre tickets website (Charing Cross Theatre Ltd, 27 February 2013). Because it was primarily directed to customers seeking to book online, the ASA ruled that the compulsory £2 commission per ticket for online bookings should be included in the quoted prices. The theatre could provide a separate itemisation of the headline price which made clear its components, provided that it was no more prominent than the headline price. Alternatively, it would be acceptable for them to quote booking-fee exclusive prices, provided those prices were clearly targeted to box office, as opposed to online, customers.
The Old Vic, 27 February 2013
East Lancashire Light Railway Company Ltd, 19 June 2013