A website and a radio ad for the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card, seen and heard in December 2019:
a. The website www.britishairways.com, featured text which stated “Get 2-for-1 travel with a Companion Voucher when you spend £10,000 each membership year on the Card, which you can use to take a companion with you in the same flight and cabin when you redeem Avios for a British Airways reward flight. Taxes, fees and carrier charges apply”.
b. The radio ad stated “Ah, what’s better than being at one with nature? How about being at two with nature? Get a 2-for-1 Companion Voucher valid for two years when you spend £10,000 each year on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card…Annual fee applies…Terms, taxes, fees and carrier charges apply”.
The complainant, who believed that the Companion Voucher did not offer two flight tickets for the price of one, challenged whether the claim “2-for-1” in both ads was misleading.
British Airways plc and American Express Services Europe Ltd t/a Amex submitted a joint response. They said that the Companion Voucher provided a second flight ticket on British Airways flight booking when that booking was made using the Avios reward scheme. They said that the flight price did not have to be paid for the second ticket but carrier charges, taxes and fees were applicable for both passengers.
British Airways and Amex said that the ads provided qualifying information as to the nature of the benefit and prominently outlined the presence of significant cost exclusions by stating that “Terms, taxes, fees and carrier charges apply”. They stated that the website informed customers that they had to redeem Avios points to purchase a reward flight, and provided a link to key terms and conditions of the Companion Voucher. They said they would amend their messaging from “Taxes, fees and charges apply” to “Taxes, fees and charges apply per person”.
Radiocentre endorsed the response provided by British Airways and Amex and provided the information given to them by the advertisers, which explained how the card and Companion Voucher worked and detailled the terms and conditions which applied.
The ASA noted the words “Get 2-for-1 travel with a Companion Voucher when you spend £10,000 each membership year on the Card, which you can use to take a companion with you in the same flight and cabin when you redeem Avios for a British Airways reward flight” in ad (a).
Similarly, ad (b) stated “Get a 2-for-1 Companion Voucher valid for two years when you spend £10,000 each year on the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card”, before the voiceover stated “what’s better than being at one with nature? How about being at two with nature?” We considered that the voiceover in ad (b) posed as a British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card customer on holiday, and described in a satisfied and relaxed tone that they had made use of a Companion Voucher in order to travel to their desired destination. In that context, we considered that consumers would understand the claim “2-for-1” in both ads to mean that if they were to spend £10,000 on the card over a 12-month period, they would qualify for a Companion Voucher which allowed two people to travel to their chosen destination via two British Airways reward flight tickets for the price of one ticket. However, we understood that the “2-for-1” claim related only to the fare cost and not any added taxes, fees or carrier charges. It was therefore not possible for consumers to obtain two tickets for the amount it would cost them for one ticket.
While we noted the words “Taxes, fees and carrier charges apply” in both ads, we did not consider that to override the impression that customers were able purchase two tickets and travel to their chosen destination for the price of one. We welcomed the advertisers’ willingness to make changes to explain that those additional charges applied per person, but did not consider those changes would significantly alter how consumers would interpret the “2-for-1” claim. Consequently, because we considered consumers would understand the claim “2-for-1” in both ads to mean that if they were to spend £10,000 on the card over a 12-month period, they would qualify for a Companion Voucher which allowed two people to travel to their chosen destination via two British Airways reward flight tickets for the price of one, and that was not the case, we concluded that the claim was misleading.
Ad (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
For advertisements that quote prices for an advertised product or service, material information [for the purposes of rule
In setting or revising any such standards, Ofcom must have regard, in particular and to such extent as appears to them to be relevant to the securing of the standards objectives, to each of these matters:
a) the degree of harm or offence likely to be caused by the inclusion of any particular sort of material in programmes generally, or in programmes of a particular description;
b) the likely size and composition of a potential audience for programmes included in television and radio services generally, or in television and radio services of a particular description;
c) the likely expectation of the audience as to the nature of a programme's content and the extent to which the nature of the programme's content can be brought to the attention of potential members of the audience;
d) the likelihood of persons who are unaware of the nature of the programme's content being unintentionally exposed, by their own actions, to that content;
e) the desirability of securing that the content of services identifies when there is a change affecting the nature of a service that is being watched or listened to and, in particular, a change that is relevant to the application of the standards set under this section...".
includes: (Misleading advertising) and 3.17 3.17 Advertisements must not explicitly claim that the advertiser's job or livelihood is in jeopardy if consumers do not buy the advertised product or service. (Prices). Ad (b) breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. 3.2 3.2 Advertisements must not mislead consumers 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 consumers need in context to make informed decisions about whether or how to buy a product or service. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead consumers depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the advertisement is constrained by time or space, the measures that the advertiser takes to make that information available to consumers by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 3.18 3.18 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product or service depicted in the advertisement. (Prices).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told British Airways and American Express t/a Amex to ensure that their future advertising did not mislead by implying that consumers were able to obtain two products for the price of one when that was not the case.