Listings appearing on Alpha Holidays’ website, www.alpharooms.com, seen in February 2021, for the Solana Hotel and Spa in Malta, the Rixos Premium Dubai and the Fairmont Grand in Dubai, included a banner with the text “Free cancellation until [DATE]”. Those dates were 29 April for the Solana Hotel and Spa in Malta, 18 March for the Rixos Premium Dubai, and 8 October for the Fairmont Grand.
Three complainants, who attempted to cancel their bookings and were charged a cancellation fee, challenged whether the “Free cancellation until [DATE]” claims were misleading.
ResponseAlpha Holidays Ltd t/a Alpha Rooms responded that the complainants had not been charged a cancellation fee.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand from the claim “Free Cancellation until [DATE]” that they would be able to cancel their holiday without incurring a financial penalty as long as they did so by the date stated in the claim. We considered that would be understood to mean not only that there would be no additional charges, but they would also be refunded any payment that they had made on the holiday.
Alpha Holidays had not provided us with details as to their policy. However, the complainants had provided the ASA with emails from Alpha Holidays which showed that they had initially attempted to charge the complainants cancellation fees, before later offering them credit vouchers for the value of their bookings.
Because consumers would understand the claim “Free Cancellation until [DATE]” to mean that they would be refunded, with no charges, should they wish to cancel their holiday booking before the date stated in the claim, and we understood that was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Alpha Holidays t/a Alpha Rooms not to make the claim “Free Cancellation until [DATE]” if any charges were applied for cancelling within the stated timeframe, or if consumers who cancelled within the stated timeframe were provided with a credit voucher rather than a refund.