The website www.markwarner.co.uk offered ski holiday packages. The home page featured a search box with the options "County", "Resort", "Hotel", "Airport", "Date", "Flexibility", "Nights" and under the heading "Passengers", "Adults (16+yrs)", "Children (2-15yrs)" and "Infants (0-1yr)". Searching for a seven-night break for two adults, one child and one infant brought up a selection of results including "Chalet Hotel Hauts de Toviere, Tignes, France, 7 Nights Price From £2376".
Clicking on "Continue" gave the user the opportunity to add extra costs to their booking such as ski hire. The booking summary page stated "Price £3222". Details of the booking were set out under various headings including "Flight details", "Accommodation details" and "Extra details". Under the heading "Extra details" there were charges for "Fuel Supplement", "Infant Price" and "Under Occupancy".
The complainant challenged whether the price claim "from £2376" was misleading, because she understood the price did not relate to all the information she had provided in the search fields, and there were additional charges levied for "Infant Price", "Fuel Supplement" and "Under Occupancy".
Mark Warner Ltd (Mark Warner) stated that the prices initially generated after a user searched for a particular holiday included the "Fuel Supplement" fee of £20 per adult and child, and the "Infant Price" of £100. They said the price then remained constant through the booking process until the summary booking page where the costs for any optional extras such as ski hire were added as well as "Under Occupancy" charges, "Child" charges and room supplement charges. They stated, however, that all through the booking process text in a right-hand column on each page stated "Under occupancy and room supplements are added at the end of the booking process".
They explained that the "Under Occupancy" applied when all the beds in a room were not occupied and equalled the brochure price for one adult minus £150, or if the holiday was on offer, the offer price for one adult doubled. In addition, they said they had two charges for children: a full price or a reduced "Childshare" price which applied if a child shared a room with two full-fare paying individuals. They said their booking system automatically included the lower "Childshare" price if relevant to the party, which would be increased at the booking summary stage if the room selections did not mean a child shared with two full-fare paying individuals.
The ASA understood that although they were listed as "Extra details" on the booking summary page, the "Infant Price" and "Fuel Supplement" were included in the initial price of £2376, quoted on the search results page. We understood, however, that both the "Under Occupancy" and "Child" supplements were additional charges which were added at the final stage of the booking process. We noted that those charges did not apply to all bookings but depended on the rooms a consumer selected, and varied depending on whether the quoted price had been discounted or not.
We noted that on the initial search page where the price was quoted, despite a list of what features were included in the price, which included "Accommodation", there was no indication that further charges might be levied depending on the rooms selected. We understood that the text "Under occupancy and room supplements are added at the end of the booking process" did appear in a box on the right-hand side of every page of the booking process, but we considered that the text was not given enough prominence and could be easily overlooked by consumers. In addition, we considered that it did not set out how those costs were calculated and in what circumstances they would be levied.
Because there was no indication on the initial search page that additional charges could apply for "Under Occupancy" and a "Child" supplement, how those prices were calculated, or in what circumstances they would be levied, and consumers would have to proceed to the booking summary page before they would know whether those supplements had been applied, we concluded that the price claim was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
the price of the advertised product, including taxes, or, if the nature of the product is such that the price cannot be calculated in advance, the manner in which the price is calculated
Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.
Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify.
Qualifications must be presented clearly.
CAP has published a Help Note on Claims that Require Qualification. (Qualification), 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 3.22 3.22 Price claims such as "up to" and "from" must not exaggerate the availability or amount of benefits likely to be obtained by the consumer. (Prices).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Mark Warner Ltd to ensure that if they applied supplements to bookings they clearly communicated this to consumers, explained how those supplements were calculated and in what circumstances they were applied.