The Eurostar website www.eurostar.com, seen on 6 November 2017, displayed prices for a return journey from London to Paris departing on 29 December 2017 and returning on 3 January 2018. A standard ticket was priced at £98 and text below the price stated "2 tickets left at this price".
The complainant, who discovered that tickets for the same journey were subsequently included in a sale, challenged whether the claim "2 tickets left at this price" was misleading.
Eurostar International Ltd said they used the phrase "[x] tickets available at this price" to alert customers to the fact that availability of the fare at that price was limited or reasonably limited (when there were nine seats or fewer available at that price). When the last ticket had been sold at that price point, their system would then display the next available price, which would always be higher because, other than in certain exceptions, cheaper fares were always displayed and sold first.
They said most tickets were sold within the normal fare ranges. Exceptions were either where ticket prices for a particular train were updated manually because, for example, sales for that train had been particularly poor; or where Eurostar ran a promotion (promotional fares were usually lower than the fare which had been most recently available). They acknowledged that customers could be disappointed to see a price that was lower than they had paid, but believed that was outweighed by the benefit to other customers who would be glad to take advantage of the lower fare. They said they did not consider it was possible to advertise in advance that promotions were going to take place, because customers would simply delay buying their tickets until then.
The ASA considered consumers would understand that prices for rail travel were likely to fluctuate, often at short notice, and that the quantity of unsold tickets and proximity to the date of travel were likely to be significant factors in how prices changed. In the context in which the claim appeared, where ticket prices at standard, standard premier and business premier were given and where some had the claim "[x] tickets left at this price" underneath, we considered consumers would interpret the claim to mean that when the stated number of tickets at each price was sold the price of tickets for that grade of accommodation on that particular train would increase. Consequently, they must act quickly to buy tickets at the advertised price before they became unavailable.
We understood from Eurostar's response that the next batch of tickets that would become available after a particular price had sold out would normally be at a higher price, but that there were nevertheless circumstances where subsequent prices would be lower. We appreciated that there may be circumstances in which a subsequent lower price would not render the "[x] tickets left at this price" claim misleading. However, we considered that where Eurostar knew, or could reasonably have anticipated, that the seats would subsequently be available at a lower price – for example, where a promotion was due to begin or where they were already aware that ticket sales for that train had been poor – it was misleading to describe the current prices in a way that suggested prices would increase if consumers did not act quickly.
Because we considered consumers would understand the claim "[x] tickets available at this price" in this context would mean that subsequent tickets, if they became available at all, were likely to be at a higher price, when at the time the ad was seen they were aware that those tickets would shortly be included in a sale that resulted in them being offered at a lower price, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead.
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) and 3.31 3.31 Marketing communications must not falsely claim that the marketer is about to cease trading or move premises. They must not falsely state that a product, or the terms on which it is offered, will be available only for a very limited time to deprive consumers of the time or opportunity to make an informed choice. (Availability).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Eurostar International Ltd to ensure their future ads did not mislead consumers by, for example, urging them to act quickly to buy tickets because prices were likely to rise where they knew or could reasonably have anticipated that the seats would subsequently be available at a lower price.