An online travel agency, www.click2book.co.uk, seen on 10 July 2020, listed a return flight with British Airways from London to Orlando on 23 December 2020 and returning on 2 January 2021. The ad stated that the price of the flight was "£464.5" [sic].
IssueThe complainant, who found that the flight was not available at the advertised price, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
ResponseFlights & Holidays UK Ltd said flights on their website were bookable at the prices shown. In this case, they maintained that the payment had not been completed and that had the payment been made, they would have honoured the advertised price. They said there were certain special prices that were only bookable online.
The ASA considered that consumers would interpret the claim "£464.5" to mean the flight was available for that price at the time they viewed the ad. The price was not presented as a "from" price, and there was no indication within the ad that the price was subject to change. The CAP Code required marketers to monitor stocks and stated that the marketer should withdraw or amend marketing communications when a product became unavailable.
We understood that flight prices available through third parties were liable to fluctuate and advertisers were unlikely to be able to monitor real-time availability, meaning that flights might not be available at the advertised price by the time consumers attempted to make a purchase. However, we considered that the ad was presented in a way which suggested Flights & Holidays UK would be able to supply the flight at the advertised price. Because we had not seen evidence that the flight was available at the advertised price at the time the complainant viewed the ad, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
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), 3.17 3.17 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product featured in the marketing communication. (Prices) and 3.29 3.29 Marketers must monitor stocks. If a product becomes unavailable, marketers must, whenever possible, withdraw or amend marketing communications that feature that product. (Availability).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Flights & Holidays UK Ltd to ensure they held adequate substantiation to show that their quoted prices were based on genuine prices available to consumers. We also told them to: describe prices that were subject to change as "from"; clearly state that these had limited availability if that was the case; state when prices were last updated; and ensure they had processes in place to update prices frequently.