Comply with me… Some sunny advice for holiday and travel marketing

Whether it’s a quick overnight trip for work, a weekend break with a loved one or a family holiday, the travel industry provides a much needed – and usually much enjoyed – service for consumers. But before travel marketing campaigns take off, it’s important to make sure that they are compliant with the rules.

Read on for some key advice on travel marketing.

How do we ensure price claims don’t mislead?

When there’s a range of available prices and the lowest price is stated, this should be stated as a “from” price. Unless you are a third party provider, you must be able to demonstrate that a significant proportion of seats/rooms etc. are available at the stated “from” price and should make clear in the ad if those prices are limited in availability and subject to change.

You also need to make clear the specific dates that an offer relates to and make sure that the products available at the promotional price are spread relatively evenly throughout the period. If a price claim appears after specific search criteria have been selected by the consumer, the price should usually be available

All prices, regardless of availability requirements, must include all non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that apply to all or most buyers.  If ‘extras’ like Wi-Fi and breakfast are subject to additional charges, it should be clear that they are not included in a stated price. Some fees, like taxes levied abroad, cannot be calculated in advance, and where these apply the ad should make it clear that they are excluded from the price, and state how they are calculated.

The full amount consumers will pay should be clear to them upfront – there shouldn’t be any surprises later in the booking process. It should also be clear when a consumer will be expected to pay

See our advice on Travel: Pricing for more.

What if prices are provided by third parties?

Some marketers offering package holidays use shared systems owned by third parties to get prices for flights or accommodation which form part of the package they offer.  When this is the case, marketers are unlikely to be able to monitor real-time availability of flights or accommodation, and the fares stated in advertising may no longer be available by the time consumers attempt to make a purchase.

In situations like these, marketers should update prices frequently and let consumers know the date of the most recent update. They should describe prices as “from,” make sure that ads make it clear that the availability is indicative of the last update and direct consumers to where they can find the most up-to-date prices.

For more guidance on issues around dynamic pricing and savings claims, please see our advice on ‘Travel marketing: Working with Third Parties’.

What about savings claims?

When it comes to savings claims or discounts, you must hold evidence to demonstrate that they are genuine. If using a reference price, such as a ‘was,’ or “worth” price, you must be able to demonstrate that the saving advertised is meaningful, by having evidence to show that it is the price that the consumer would have genuinely had to pay before the saving was made. Recency, pricing history, sales data, sales, and distribution channels will all affect whether a higher price is sufficiently established as a usual selling price.

The ASA upheld against because they did not provide evidence to demonstrate that the full price or the promotional prices were achievable and could not demonstrate that the saving claim was accurate.

In addition to the relevant rules on pricing and comparisons in Section 3, the ASA will take the CTSI Guidance for Traders on Pricing Practices into account when considering complaints about holiday prices and savings claims. 

Where marketers use dynamic pricing, it is still their responsibility to ensure that price statements are accurate and to hold evidence to demonstrate that a pre-discount price was genuine.

See our article on reference pricing and advice on Travel: Pricing for more.

How do I make comparisons with competitors?

If you’re making a comparison with competitors that can be identified in an ad, either because you’ve stated who they are or they are identifiable by implication, ensure you compare the most similar products or services or clearly state the differences between them, so that the basis of the comparison is made clear. The details of the comparison must also be verifiable by consumers, at least by means of a signpost in the ad itself to the full information (for more, see our advice on verifiability).

When making a comparison with an unidentifiable competitor, ensure that the elements of the comparison aren’t selected to give an unrepresentative advantage and hold robust comparative data internally to prove your claims.

For a “lowest price” or “cheapest” claim to be acceptable you should have an appropriate price monitoring and adjustment policy in place to ensure that you will always provide the lowest price, compared to your competitors. A promise to reimburse consumers the difference in price, if they find a room cheaper elsewhere, does not justify an absolute “lowest price” claim, rather it is a “price promise” or “price guarantee,” the conditions of which should be made clear in the ad.

For more, see Travel marketing: Comparisons as well as our guidance on lowest price claims and promises and guarantees and warranties.

How can we make environmental claims?

If you want to promote the environmental credentials of your travel services, you should consider how the ASA is likely to interpret the claims and the sort of evidence required to substantiate environmental claims. You should take Government guidance into account, including the Competition and Markets Authority’s Green Claims Code, as well as adhering to Section 11 of the CAP Code.

The Code requires the basis of environmental claims to be clear - unqualified claims could mislead if they omit significant information – and the meaning of all terms used must be clear to consumers.

Marketers proposing to make claims based on future projections, should ensure that they are clear, based on accurate data and, if relevant, suitably qualified.

For more, see our guidance on Travel marketing: Environmental claims.

Finally, if you’d like a package of bespoke advice to make sure your non-broadcasting advertising flies without a hitch, feel free to submit an enquiry to our Copy Advice team.

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