An internet banner ad, for a hotel reservations website, stated "Solihull from £12.75 - Book now."
The complainant, who saw the ad on 2 September 2011, and was unable to find hotel rooms in Solihull for £12.75, challenged whether it was misleading.
Booking.com BV (Booking.com) said the ad was not an invitation to purchase because it did not provide enough information for the average consumer to make a booking. They submitted two screenshots and said this demonstrated that up to ten rooms were available in Solihull for £12.75 from 28 March to 29 March 2012.
The ASA noted Booking.com said the ad was not an invitation to purchase and understood that, on this basis, they believed it was not a marketing communication. However, we noted the banner appeared online, in paid-for space, and considered that, because it was concerned with promoting the services of the advertiser and provided a link to their website, the banner was marketing material and within the remit of the CAP Code.
We noted from the screenshots there were ten rooms available at The St John's Hotel, from 28 March to 29 March 2012 for £12.75. However, we noted the complainant saw the ad on 2 September 2011 and considered the claim "Solihull from £12.75 - Book now" implied that consumers could generally book a hotel in Solihull for £12.75. We considered that, because the ad had not qualified that the price claim was limited to only one specific date, and we had not seen adequate evidence to demonstrate that Booking.com could generally offer consumers a hotel in Solihull at the promotional price of £12.75, we considered the claim "Solihull from £12.75 had not been substantiated and 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), 3.7 3.7 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. (Substantiation) 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. (Prices).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Booking.com not to make claims about a "from" price unless they could be substantiated by robust documentary evidence. We also told them to include significant limitations in future ads.