Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
a. A website for the theatre production A Chorus of Disapproval, achorusofdisapproval.com, included the claim "100 TICKETS FOR EVERY PERFORMANCE AT £10" on the home page and a link that stated "BOOK NOW" that led to ad (b).
b. The "Ticket" page included a header "TICKET PRICES" under which further text stated "100 TICKETS FOR EVERY PERFORMANCE AT £10 … Opening Weeks: £10, £20, £25, £35, £40 … From 1st October: £10, £25, £30, £40, £53.50 ... Premium Seats are available, please contact the Box Office ... All prices include a £1.50 restoration levy".
The complainant, who understood that transaction fees applied to telephone and internet bookings, challenged whether:
1. the price claim in ad (a); and
2. the price claims in ad (b)
1. & 2. AKA Group Ltd said they believed the issue in this case had arisen due to the omission of the transaction fee. They said they had amended their website to include this on ad (b). They said it was initially omitted in error. They said that for every performance of A Chorus for Disapproval there were 139 tickets priced at £10, of which at least 100 were available to buy in advance. If the ticket was purchased via the ATG or Ticketmaster website they applied a transaction fee of £3. Other agents might charge different amounts beyond the control of the producer, who did not receive any of this money. If the customer purchased the ticket at the box office they were not charged a transaction fee.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA welcomed AKA Group's willingness to make changes. The CAP Code required that quoted prices included non-optional fees and charges. However, we understood that in this case the transaction fee was a one-off charge for internet and phone bookings unrelated to the amount of tickets bought and could therefore not be incorporated within individual ticket prices. We considered that customers should be notified of the existence and amount of the transaction fee at the beginning and end of the booking process. We understood that it was possible to avoid paying a transaction fee by purchasing their ticket in person at the box office, but considered that most consumers would consider the price claims to refer to all methods of purchasing the ticket and that "BOOK NOW" would be understood to refer to phone or internet bookings. We considered that because ad (a) was the first time a price claim appeared, the price there needed to be immediately qualified with a reference to the existence, and amount, of the booking fee. For example, by stating "plus booking fee for phone/web bookings*" and linking an asterisk to information that included the amount. Because they did not do so we concluded the ads breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 3.17 3.17 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product featured in the marketing communication. 3.18 3.18 Quoted prices must include non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that apply to all or most buyers. However, VAT-exclusive prices may be given 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. and 3.19 3.19 If a tax, duty, fee or charge cannot be calculated in advance, for example, because it depends on the consumer's circumstances, the marketing communication must make clear that it is excluded from the advertised price and state how it is calculated. (Prices).
We told AKA Group to ensure that the first reference to prices for a performance were immediately qualified with the amount of the transaction fee or any other fees or charges.