An online banner ad, seen on 13 March 2017, which included the claim "Condor Ferries - UK from £32 pp* each way with your car. Book now".
The complainant, who said they were unable to find a booking at the advertised price, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
Condor Ferries Ltd said a minimum of 10% of sailings were available at the advertised "from" fares. They said that when customers clicked through to their website from the ad, the terms of the offer were clearly listed. These conditions were "Price is per person each way, based on two adults travelling with a vehicle up to 5m long and 1.85m high. Prices vary depending on time of year and demand".
They said that if the "from" discounted price was no longer available at 10% availability, they would offer a "from fare" at a new higher price.
Condor Ferries also said 82% of vehicles on their ferries were cars up to 5m long, 1.85m high and that 90% of vehicle parties were made up of two people. They said as the overall majority of their customers could book this offer they did not feel it was a significant limitation or qualification to the offer.
Condor Ferries provided evidence that showed which sailings were available at the advertised "from" price and on which days.
The ASA considered consumers would understand the claim "UK from £32pp each way with your car" to mean that a significant proportion of sailings to and from UK destinations throughout the year would be priced at £32 per person if they were travelling with a car. We considered many consumers were likely to use Condor Ferries for holiday travel, and would therefore expect from the ad that they would be able to purchase both their departure and return sailings at the "from" price point. We considered that consumers would understand that not all sailings would be priced at £32, but would expect to be able to find the price in the ad across a range of dates that would suit their needs if they booked in advance.
Condor Ferries were not able to provide pricing information as it stood at the time the ad was seen by the complainant. Instead they provided evidence relating to their pricing as it was on 30 June 2017 at which point they were advertising a price point of "from £59", for sailings during the period June 2017 to March 2018. We noted that we had not seen evidence relating to the number of sailings available at £32 when the complainant saw the ad, and that therefore the price claims in that ad had not been substantiated.
Notwithstanding that, we understood that the evidence Condor Ferries provided demonstrated their general process for calculating their pricing claims, and we therefore reviewed how they had calculated their updated "from £59" pricing claim.
We noted many of the journeys at that price point were during off-peak travel periods, with long periods where that price was not available. While there were sailings available at the "from" price, the opportunity to travel back to the departure point at the same price was restricted; in some instances return sailings at the "from" price were not available back to the departure point for 20 days after the departure date. We therefore considered the availability of return sailings was not what consumers would expect based on the claim in the ad. We also noted that when we searched for sailings on the website, which the evidence indicated should have been available at the £59 price point, we were not able to find those sailings available at that price.
Condor Ferries stated that the terms of the offer were available on their website when consumers clicked through from the ad. However, while we noted that a qualification was included in small print at the bottom of the landing page, we considered the fact that the price was "based on two adults travelling with a vehicle up to 5m long and 1.85m high", and that "Prices vary depending on time of year and demand", were significant limitations to the offer which should have been stated in the banner ad.
Because we had not seen evidence relating to the availability of sailings at £32, and we were further concerned that the general process used by the advertiser to calculate their "from £X" pricing claims was not adequate to support such claims, we concluded the claim "UK from £32 pp* each way with your car" had not been substantiated and was misleading. We also considered that the ad breached the Code because it did not state significant limitations and qualifications.
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), 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification) and 3.22 3.22 Price claims such as "up to" and "from" must not exaggerate the availability or amount of benefits likely to be obtained by the consumer. (Prices).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Condor Ferries Ltd not to repeat a "from" price claim unless they could substantiate that it was a genuine price available to a reasonable proportion of customers and that significant limitations and qualifications were clearly stated.