Two direct marketing emails from Cruise Nation, promoting cruise holiday deals:
a. An email received on 20 September 2018 included the text “THE DRINKS ARE ON US! FROM ONLY £799”. A circular icon with a green tick and the text “lowest price guaranteed” was placed beside the price claim. Additional text stated “FREE PREMIUM ALL INCLUSIVE/ DELUXE DRINKS PACKAGE… HOTEL STAYS WORTH UP TO £300… FREE CABIN UPGRADES ON SELECTED SAILINGS”. The email then featured 13 holiday deals to various destinations. Small text at the bottom of the email stated “Conditions: Prices are from and per person based on 2 sharing the lowest cabin grade unless otherwise stated. Gratuities are not included in any of these offers. Booking fee & Baggage charge may apply”.
b. An email received on 7 November 2018 included the text “RED HOT DEALS FROM ONLY £399”. A circular icon with a green tick and the text “lowest price guaranteed” was placed beside the price claim. The email featured 29 holiday deals to various destinations. At the bottom of the page small text stated “Conditions: Prices are from and per person based on 2 sharing the lowest cabin grade unless otherwise stated. Gratuities are not included in any of these offers. Gratuities are compulsory with Costa cruises. Booking fee & Baggage charge may apply”.
The complainant who found it was cheaper to book flights, accommodation and cruise travel separately, challenged whether the claim “lowest price guaranteed” was misleading.
Really Great Cruises Ltd t/a Cruise Nation said that the term ‘lowest price guaranteed’ referred to the lowest price that was available at the time of the offer being promoted or at the time of booking, as flights were booked through a live system.
They said that their prices were compared with their competitors and were checked rigorously by monitoring their competitor’s websites, newspaper and magazine ads and marketing emails sent by their competitors. This information was stored manually, but was not date stamped and in future they would ensure they would also obtain screen grabs from websites. They clarified that in the event that a consumer had made a booking with them and provided evidence that the trip was cheaper through a competitor, Cruise Nation would look into the matter and refund the difference.
They provided a copy of an email they had subsequently sent to consumers which compared their prices against two of their competitors which they believed supported their claim “lowest price guaranteed”.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim “lowest price guaranteed” in both ads to mean that the trips referenced in the ads by Cruise Nation could not be purchased elsewhere for less than the price advertised, and that the claim was accurate at the time the ad was seen. Ads (a) and (b) did not feature any information making clear that the claim was based on a comparison against their competitors, nor did it set out which competitors they had compared their prices against. In order to substantiate the claim we expected to see comparative evidence that Cruise Nation’s trips were available at a lower price than other travel providers.
Cruise Nation said they carried out price checks against competitors which they stated were accurate at the time they were promoted or were booked. However, we received no evidence from them that the prices stated in the ads were cheaper than any other travel provider for comparable trips. We further noted that neither ad featured any information which made clear the basis of the comparison, including for example, when the comparison was made or which competitors they had compared their prices against.
In the absence of information to clarify the basis of the claim and evidence that showed that Cruise Nation’s prices were lower than their competitor’s prices we concluded that the claim “lowest price guaranteed” in ads (a) and (b) was misleading.
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), 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), 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors) and 3.39 3.39 Marketing communications that include a price comparison must make the basis of the comparison clear.
CAP has published a Help Note on Retailers' Price Comparisons and a Help Note on Lowest Price Claims and Price Promises. (Price comparisons).
The claim must not appear again in its current form. We told Really Great Cruises Ltd t/a Cruise Nation not to use the claim “lowest price guaranteed” unless they made the basis of the claim clear in their advertising and held evidence to substantiate the claim.