An ad for a hotel and flight package to New York, seen on www.lastminute.com on 15 September 2016, stated “£569 Price per person Flight + hotel”.
The complainant, who had booked the package but had subsequently been told that the price stated in the ad was no longer available and that she would have to pay an additional £70.77, challenged whether the price claim was misleading and could be substantiated.
Lastminute.com said that the products they offered were dynamic and their availability was subject to change at any time. They relied on a global distribution system for information on up-to-date airline and hotel availability, which could change at any time during the booking process. If an airline seat or hotel room sold out at the displayed price during the booking process, or after the booking request was submitted, they would always try to find a suitable alternative with no price change to the customer, and if that was not possible, they would offer the same or similar option with additional surcharge that would allow them to confirm the booking request. They said that they always offered customers the option not to proceed with the booking if that was no longer suitable for them. Lastminute provided a summary of the communications the complainant had received from them and the financial transactions that were undertaken.
The ASA noted that the ad displayed a price of £569 per person for the flight and hotel package. We considered that consumers would understand that to mean that that was the total price they would pay, notwithstanding the cost of any optional extras. However, approximately an hour after making a booking request for the package at the quoted price (which included making the payment), the complainant was informed that the price had increased and they would need to pay an additional sum of £70.77 in order to maintain the booking. Because the package was not available at the price quoted in the ad, we concluded that the price statement 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 the form complained about. We told BravoNext SA t/a lastminute.com to ensure that they could demonstrate that holiday packages were available at the prices for which they were advertised at the time they were seen by consumers.