A direct mailing for cruises stated "BOOK 2013 NOW AND YOU'LL GET THE BEST DEAL - GUARANTEED* We're delighted to write to you, as a valued Oceans member, with news that Fred. Olsen has introduced an Early Booking Guarantee. This fantastic new pledge means you can book a 2013 sailing now - and rest assured that you won't lose out if the cruise price should fall. We'll offer you benefits or a refund to the same value. To secure this guarantee, you must book by the end of September. It applies to 2013 departures 6th April onwards". Offer terms and conditions were stated on the back of the mailing and included "*Early Booking Guarantee applies to like-for-like Fred. Olsen packages and cannot be applied retrospectively. Excludes: inside cabins ...".
The complainant, who did not believe the ad made clear significant limitations to the Early Bookings Guarantee, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines Ltd (Fred Olsen) believed the most important restrictions on the Early Booking Guarantee were that it only applied to departures from 6 April 2013 onwards and that, if the guarantee was activated, the refund could be paid either in cash or through benefits to the same value. They said this information was stated clearly within the body copy of the ad. They also said the asterisk after the headline claim directed readers to the full terms and conditions that were clearly printed on the back of the letter in the same size font as the copy on the front.
The complainant believed that the mailing was misleading because it did not make clear that the Early Booking Guarantee excluded inside cabins. The front page stated "BOOK 2013 NOW AND YOU'LL GET THE BEST DEAL - GUARANTEED*" and directed readers to the back page, which included the terms and conditions and stated "Excludes: inside cabins ...". However, the ad offered consumers benefits or a refund to the same value, if the cruise they booked later fell in price. In that context, the ASA considered that the exclusion of inside cabins, which were usually cheaper, was a significant condition that was likely to affect their decision to take advantage of the offer and therefore needed to be made clear in the headline claim. 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) and 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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Fred Olsen Cruise Lines Ltd to make clear in the headline claim the exclusion of inside cabins to "best deal guaranteed" offers in future.