Claims on www.ihg.com, a hotel booking website, stated "Best Price Guarantee … We're so sure the best prices for our hotels are found on our websites that we were the first to offer the most powerful price guarantee ever by a global travel company. Every hotel reservation booked through an IHG web site [sic] is guaranteed to have the lowest room price (room rate) or total room cost (including all taxes and fees) publicly available on the internet or IHG will provide the first night's room price free and match the lower average nightly room price found for that stay for the rest of the nights of that stay (subject to the Terms and Conditions of the Guarantee)".
Text on the "Best Price Guarantee FAQs" page stated, "If you find a lower room price (room rate) with a lower total room cost (including all taxes and fees) on a publicly available competing Web site [sic] for the same hotel, type of accommodations and rate restrictions on the same dates, we'll not only match that lower room price, we'll give you your first night's room price free, subject to the Best Price Guarantee Terms and Conditions … Rooms on the competing Web site [sic] must be publicly available, viewable and bookable on the Internet at the time of verification.".
Text on the "IGH Best Price Guarantee Terms and Conditions" page stated "Matching prices - Currency Requirements. The currency of the hotel controls the comparison with the room price and the total room cost on the non-IHG website, and the room price and the total room cost on the non-IHG website must be available, viewable, quoted, booked, and paid for in the currency of the hotel".
The complainant, who was told their claim for the best price guarantee did not qualify under the terms and conditions because the competitor's website was registered in the USA, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
InterContinental Hotel Groups plc (IHG) said the claim did not meet the conditions of the offer because the terms and conditions clearly stated that the comparator rate must be "available, viewable, quoted, booked and paid for in the currency of the hotel". They also said the terms and conditions of the comparator's website stated the credit card would be charged in US dollars. They highlighted the relevant sections of their and the competitor's terms and conditions.
The ASA understood that some online competitors might initially set out their prices in one currency, but ultimately bill in a different currency. It was a condition of the guarantee that "the total room cost on the non-IHG website must be available, viewable, quoted, booked, and paid for in the currency of the hotel", which we considered was material information. While that information appeared in the terms and conditions, we noted they were one-click away from the Best Price Guarantee page and considered that was not sufficiently prominent. Because we considered the condition was not sufficiently prominent, we concluded the ad was misleading.
Investigated under 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), 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. and 3.10 3.10 Qualifications must be presented clearly.
CAP has published a Help Note on Claims that Require Qualification. (Qualification).
The ad must not appear in its current form. We told InterContinental Hotels Group plc (IHG) to ensure that qualifications were sufficiently prominent in marketing communications, for example by including the condition that the total room cost on the non-IHG website must be available, viewable, quoted, booked and paid for in the currency of the hotel, on the Best Price Guarantee page.