Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A regional press ad promoting a package holiday featured a picture of a hotel facade and terrace on a waterfront with an in-set box stating "7 nights from £329.00". Text stated "The four-star Soreda Hotel offers a traditional warm Maltese welcome with modern facilities and has three swimming pools including one indoor heated pool, sauna and Jacuzzi …".
The complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading, because:
1. he believed that the picture shown was not the Soreda Hotel; and
2. it suggested that the price quoted was for a hotel on the waterfront, but he believed the Soreda Hotel was not next to water.
1. & 2. Holiday Gems Ltd said the photos used were generic images provided by the Maltese Tourist Authority and were used in good faith. They said the image used in the ad had already been replaced and provided another example of an ad for the same offer, which featured a photo of a boat on the water, in front of a cityscape. They stated that generic images were used by numerous tourist agencies and did not always indicate the hotel or view. They felt that, for example, a generic image of London showing Buckingham Palace or Big Ben did not guarantee that either building would be the accommodation or represent the view from the advertised hotel. They said the ad did not state that the image used was of the Soreda Hotel. They also provided the terms and conditions to which customers who had booked with them had agreed. They said they had placed 370 bookings at the Soreda Hotel since July 2012 and had not received any direct complaints.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA noted that the ad featured a photo of a building which we considered consumers could reasonably believe was a hotel. Because the offer related to a holiday at a specific, named hotel, the Soreda Hotel, we further considered that consumers would assume that the photo therefore represented the Soreda Hotel and that the hotel was on a waterfront. We understood that the image was in fact a generic image of a building in Malta. However, we did not consider that it was such a well-known building or iconic tourist site that consumers would recognise it as an example of a particular sight that they might see, were they to visit Malta, rather than a representation of the advertised hotel.
Because we considered that consumers would infer that the photo represented the advertised hotel, which was on a waterfront, and because we had not seen any evidence that the photo was of the Soreda Hotel or that that hotel was on a waterfront, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (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.