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, and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Guidance For Traders on Pricing Practices, marketers must ensure that any pricing claims comply with the rules on prices in the CAP Code (rules 3.17 - 3.21). These rules state that quoted prices, including “from” prices, must not mislead, and must include all non-optional fees, taxes and delivery fees.
Code rule 3.18 states that all quoted prices must include non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that apply to all or most buyers. If a booking fee is not optional, ticket prices must be stated inclusive of any booking fee, unless the booking fee cannot be calculated in advance.
If they cannot be calculated in advance, for example because they depend on the customer’s circumstances, the marketing communication must make clear that it is excluded from the advertised price and state how it is calculated (rule 3.19). It is 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.
If each ticket is subject to an extra charge, that charge should be included in the advertised price of tickets. An ad for the secondary ticket provider Seatwave was considered misleading because the quoted ticket price did not include the booking fee. Whilst the per ticket booking fee depended on the number and price of tickets purchased, because it was possible for the booking fee per ticket to be calculated in advance of displaying the ticket prices, the web page should have presented the total ticket price including this fee. Even if the price had not been calculable in advance, the ad would have breached the Code because it did not state how the booking fee was calculated (Seatwave Limited, 07 March 2018).
The ASA investigated the “Online Booking” section of a theatre tickets website. 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 (Charing Cross Theatre Ltd, 27 February 2013).
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. 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). See also The Old Vic, 27 February 2013.
Marketers may state solely the face value of a ticket without qualification only if no extra charges, such as booking fee, exist for any booking method featured in the ad.
CAP understands that the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations brought into force a ban on surcharges on consumer credit and debit cards with effect from 13 January 2018. This means that merchants must not charge consumers a fee in addition to the advertised price of a transaction on the basis of a consumer using a credit or debit card. For information about this ban, please seek legal advice. See Compulsory costs and charges: Credit and debit card fees.
All quoted prices must also include VAT. Quoted prices must only be VAT-exclusive if all those to whom the price claim is clearly addressed pay no VAT or can recover VAT. Such VAT-exclusive prices must be accompanied by a prominent statement of the amount or rate of VAT payable.
Complaints about ads for tickets sold by Viogogo Ltd were upheld because the initial quoted ticket price did not include VAT. Whilst Viagogo argued that the rate of VAT could not be calculated in advance because it depended on the customer’s county of residence, the ASA considered that, given the claims appeared on the UK version of the website, most buyers would be from the UK and would therefore pay the UK rate of VAT. Therefore the UK rate of VAT should have been included in the ticket price. This was particularly the case because Viagogo would already know the address of registered Viagogo customers who had signed in at the beginning of the customer journey. (Viagogo AG, 07 March 2018).
Code rule 3.20 states that ads which quote prices must also state all applicable delivery fees, or, if these cannot be calculated in advance, state that these charges are payable. These delivery fees should be clearly stated in the initial marketing material. An ad for event tickets on the Get Me In website stated "Prices may vary from face value and exclude order & delivery fees (applicable per transaction)”. The ASA considered that the UK delivery fee could be calculated in advance, and as such the ad should have stated the applicable UK delivery charge alongside the ticket price. Because it did not, the ASA found the ad misleading (GETMEIN! Ltd, 07 March 2018).
Code rule 3.22 states that price claims such as "up to" and "from" must not exaggerate the availability or amount of benefits likely to be obtained by the consumer.
In practice, this means that when using a “from” price, advertisers must ensure that a significant proportion of sale items are discounted at the maximum saving, and that these claims represent the true overall picture of the price promotion.
The ASA investigated an ad for coach tickets which stated “From £1”. They considered that consumers would understand this to mean that a significant proportion of coach tickets would be priced at £1 for the full distance of the advertised routes, and would expect to be able to find £1 tickets across a range of dates if they booked in advance. Because there was not a significant proportion of tickets available at the “from” price of £1 for the advertised routes, and on some of the routes there were no tickets available at this price at all, the ad was considered misleading (Midland Red (South) Ltd, t/a Megabus.com, 28 March 2018). See also Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, 12 September 2018 and Eurostar International Ltd, 18 July 2018.
If offering ticket prices for an event in which the ticket prices are of a set value, and vary according to the ticket type purchased (for example, based on the seat location in a theatre), the lowest price should be stated as a “from” price.