A website for ferry operator DFDS Seaways, www.dfds.com, seen on 4 May 2023, featured a page headed “Ferry Crossings Newcastle – Amsterdam” with text that stated, “From £47 pp one way + car”. A section at the bottom of the page labelled “FAQ” stated, “How much is the ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam? Our general crossing prices currently start from £47 pp. They are calculated as one-way with 4 people per cabin and car”.
The complainant, who could not find any fares available at the £47 price, challenged whether the claim “From £47” was misleading and could be substantiated.
DFDS A/S t/a DFDS Seaways said the standard disclaimer text that clarified that the advertised per person sale price was based on a one-way trip with car and four people in a cabin had been omitted from the web page because of human error. Since receiving the complaint they had amended the ad to include that information. They said a single one-way ticket was a ticket that included a car space and board in a four-person cabin and that the offer only applied when a cabin for four was booked. They had reviewed the availability of fares across all crossings until December 2023 using those criteria and provided a table to demonstrate the percentage share of available fares in terms of cost per person in that period, and that showed 19% of fares until December 2023 complied with the offer. Their fares operated on a flexible pricing model that took into account availability, demand and the initial advertised price, and consumers could only search for tickets based on departure dates, not on price. However, following the complaint, they said they would test easy-to-read overview tables to help consumers identify travel dates where the advertised price and other fare classes were available.
The ASA considered the claim “From £47 pp one way + car” would be understood by consumers as meaning it was possible to purchase a one-way ticket for one person with a car space on the ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam for £47.00, and a significant number of tickets would be available at that price.
We understood the £47 price for a one-way ticket was only available when four places were booked in a four-person cabin, and was not available as a single fare in and of itself. Text at the bottom of the page stated, “Our general crossing prices currently start from £47 pp. They are calculated as one-way with 4 people per cabin and car”. However, we considered consumers would have only been aware of that qualifying text if they scrolled to the bottom of the page and read the full page of text, which was not necessary in order to search for bookable tickets. The text was, therefore, insufficiently prominent. Furthermore, the text did not make clear the offer only applied when four people booked a cabin, rather than to a single person booking a bed in a four-person cabin.
We welcomed DFDS Seaways’ assurance that they had taken action to amend the ad and were testing tools to help customers navigate to fares at specific price points. However, we considered the qualifying information in the amended ad was still insufficiently prominent and did not make explicitly clear the offer was only applied when a four-person party booked a cabin for four.
As the £47 one-way ticket was only available when booked as part of a four-person cabin, which had not been made sufficiently clear, we therefore concluded the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9, 3.10 (qualification), 3.17 and 3.22 (prices).
The ad must not appear in the form complained of. We told DFDS A/S t/a DFDS Seaways to ensure their future marketing communications presented qualifying text clearly and prominently.