A brochure for Fred Olsen cruises stated "Book now and get the best deal - guaranteed!* What's more, with our price pledge you can rest assured that you won't lose out if the price of your 2013 cruise should fall. We'll offer you benefits or refund to the same value, so you know your deal won't be beaten - and you'll get the best choice of cruises and cabins too. Applies to all departures from 6th April 2013 on Outside Cabins and above (except Grand Voyages). The Price Pledge ... [is] available on all Fred.Olsen departures from 6th April 2013 onwards - including all cruises in this brochure - when booked by 5th November". That was linked to a footnote on another page which stated "Excludes Inside Cabins, Anchor Fares and other offers which require full payment at the time of booking. Conditions apply; please see our website for full details".
Two complainants challenged whether the claim "Book now and get the best deal - guaranteed!*" was misleading and could be substantiated because the cruises they had booked were subsequently available at a cheaper price in a promotional 2 for 1 offer.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines Ltd (Fred Olsen) said the Price Pledge had a number of restrictions which were set out in the Terms and Conditions on page three and the back of the brochure, which included "Early booking Price Pledge applies to like-for-like Fred.Olsen packages ... Excludes ... offers that require full payment at the time of booking". They said the limitations of the Price Pledge were also included in the terms and conditions, which customers had to confirm they had read and agreed to them when booking with them.
The "Two For One" offer referred to by the complainants required payment in full at the time of booking. In addition, Fred Olsen said "Two For One" bookings were not like-for-like packages because the booking conditions were different, for example, 100% cancellation charges applied and payment in full was required at time of the booking. They said the brochure made clear which exclusions applied to the Price Pledge and they believed the restrictions placed on "Two For One" offers meant cruises booked under the Price Pledge were more flexible and therefore, were a better deal. They did not believe the ad was misleading.
The ASA noted that exclusions which applied to the Price Pledge had been stated in the ad and in small print several pages further on. We considered, however, that consumers were likely to interpret the claim "best deal - guaranteed" to mean the price they paid for their cruise would not be bettered. We understood the subsequent "Two For One" offer meant that the cruises could have been booked at a cheaper price. We therefore considered that the claim was likely to mislead consumers into believing they would always pay the best price. Because we understood that was not the case, we concluded the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form.