A poster and website for the Gatwick Express train, seen in March 2018:
a. The poster featured the text “Glide out of Gatwick”. Smaller text stated “Non-stop to Victoria station in half an hour, every 15 minutes”. Smaller text at the bottom of the poster stated “Gatwick Airport to London Victoria, 30 minutes, every 15 minutes average timetabled journey time in normal service (journey times and frequencies may vary for planned engineering works)”.
b. The website www.gatwickexpress.com featured the text “Our trains run every 15 minutes, taking you between London Victoria and Gatwick Airport in just 30 minutes”.
Two complainants challenged whether the duration time claims in ad (a) and (b) were misleading and could be substantiated.
Govia Thameslink Railway Ltd t/a Gatwick Express said that they ran train services from 05:00am through to 22:00pm with a scheduled 30-minute direct journey from London Victoria to Gatwick Airport. They said that a new timetable was introduced on 20 May 2018. They said that they were currently updating all third-party media sites to reflect the new timetable and would remove the claims in question.
Gatwick Express provided data which showed that between 30 April 2017 and 26 May 2018, a total of 79.1% of scheduled trains between Victoria and Gatwick Airport arrived to their final destination on time. They highlighted that the data grouped delays into broad categories and did not provide granular detail about the delays. Of the delayed services, they provided a breakdown of the reasons for the delays. They said that there were three unforeseeable exceptions to the planned services: if access was required for engineering work; if there was a failure to the infrastructure (e.g. signalling or points failure); and if there was an unavoidable incident (e.g. a person being taken ill on a train or trespasser which may cause unavoidable delays across the network). They also said that they were contractually obliged to adjust services for safety reasons, e.g. compliance with temporary speed restrictions.
Gatwick Express argued that it was difficult to mitigate against certain delays such as staff sickness. They said they used a 2:1 ratio for drivers as well as mandating when drivers could take annual leave to ensure that there was sufficient cover for each train journey. They explained that if a driver was involved in an operational incident, they were required to take a set amount of time off work to ensure they were fit to return to work.
The ASA considered that consumers would interpret the claims "Non-stop to Victoria station in half an hour" and "in just 30 minutes" to mean that the journey time between London Victoria and Gatwick airport on the Gatwick Express was 30 minutes. While we acknowledged that consumers would appreciate that train services were occasionally subject to unforeseeable delays, we nevertheless considered that consumers would expect that the Gatwick Express achieved the stated journey time barring exceptional or unforeseeable circumstances outside of their control.
We understood that at the time the ad appeared, the Gatwick Express timetable scheduled trains between London Victoria and Gatwick airport with a journey time of 30 minutes. The performance results showed that 79.1% of planned Gatwick Express train services arrived at their final destination on time between 30 April 2017 and 26 May 2018. We noted that of the 20.1% delayed services, the majority were delayed due to reasons such as staff sickness and technical/signalling faults. Furthermore, 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. of the services did not have a reason assigned to the delay or were classified as an uninvestigated delay. Whilst we acknowledged that a proportion of services were delayed due to exceptional or unforeseeable circumstances outside of Gatwick Express' control, such as track faults, fatalities and power supply failures, we considered that a significant proportion of services were delayed for reasons that were within Gatwick Express' control. As such, we concluded that the claims "Non-stop to Victoria station in half an hour" and "in just 30 minutes" had not been substantiated and were misleading.
The ads 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 3.7 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 ads must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Gatwick Express to remove the claims “Non-stop to Victoria station in half an hour” and “in just 30 minutes” unless they could achieve that journey time in most cases, save for exceptional and unforeseeable circumstances outside of Gatwick Express’ control.