A hotel listing on Lastminute.com, for the Stratosphere Hotel Casino & Resort, which stated under the heading “Trip Summary”, “1 Room, 1 Adult from Sat 09/09 to Sat 23/09 Standard Room- Board type: room only… Flight London Heathrow- Las Vegas McCarran Int. Total price £1546”.
The complainant, who understood that a non-optional $400 ‘resort fee’ was not included in the price, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
BravoNext SA stated that they did display resort fees during the booking process and this was not limited to the confirmation email only. They provided a sample of the information available on their website before the customer accepted their terms and conditions and before they purchased any product from lastminute.com.
They explained that when the customer selected the flight and hotel details and continued to the summary and passenger details page, “Hotel Important Information” was clearly displayed, which included information about any fees payable directly to the hotel at the time of check-in or check-out. They stated that they believed this information was sufficient to provide any additional information customers needed in order to make an informed decision about their travel arrangements with lastminute.com.
The CAP Code required all non-optional charges to be included in price claims. However, where a charge was payable, but could not be calculated in advance, advertisers were required to make that clear and explain how the fee would be calculated.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand from the ad that the price of the trip including flights and the hotel room only amounted to the price displayed on the listing and that there would be no additional compulsory charges applicable to the booking.
The price claim was given in pounds sterling, whereas the resort fee was charged in US dollars. We acknowledged that, because the resort fee could not be paid at the time of booking and because exchange rates would fluctuate, the charge could not be accurately converted into pounds sterling in advance, and therefore could not be included in the total quoted price.
However, we considered that the amount of the resort fee was likely to be information that consumers would need in order to make an informed decision and it therefore should have been clearly presented in US dollars alongside the price claim. Because that was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
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. and 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. (Prices).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told BravoNext SA to ensure that price claims included all non-optional charges, and where those charges could not be included within the price, they were immediately and clearly presented.