The website www.charingcrosstheatre.co.uk included booking pages for individual productions. The pages featured seating plans with the different seating areas divided into bands. Seat-specific prices appeared when the cursor was hovered over individual seats and price bands were also given below for each area of seating.
The complainant challenged whether the price claims breached the Code because they did not include the compulsory online commission fee.
Charing Cross Theatre Ltd said it was not reasonable to require them to include the commission fee in ticket prices given on the website because the website was also a reference point for those booking in person at the box office, where no commission was payable. To make prices inclusive would therefore be confusing to customers and, in any case, the commission was levied separately by the booking provider and did not generate any income for the theatre. They argued that their approach was consistent with that of many other theatres.
The ASA noted that the booking pages in question were headed "Online Booking" and we considered that the prices clearly appeared in the context of seat selection as part of the online booking process. We therefore considered that they were primarily directed to customers seeking to book online. We understood that customers booking online were required to pay a compulsory £2 commission per ticket in addition to the prices already stated.
The CAP Code required that quoted prices include non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that applied to all or most buyers and we therefore considered that Charing Cross Theatre needed to quote prices inclusive of the £2 commission. Because they had not done so, we concluded that the ad breached the Code.
We considered however that Charing Cross Theatre could provide a separate itemisation of the headline price which made clear its components, provided that it was no more prominent than the headline price. Alternatively we considered that it would be acceptable for them to quote booking-fee exclusive prices, provided those prices were clearly targeted to box office customers.
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), 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).
We told Charing Cross Theatre to ensure that quoted ticket prices included all compulsory fees and charges.