Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Not upheld.
Claims on www.kidsweek.co.uk stated "KIDS GO FREE! Kids Go free to more than 40 top London shows this summer! ... During Kids Week, a child aged 16 or under can experience the magic of London theatre and see a fantastic selection of shows for free, plus two additional children can go at half price ... as long as they are accompanied by a full paying adult ...". 45 shows were listed.
Two complainants, who attempted to book tickets when the promotion opened, challenged whether:
1. the promotion was misleading and had been administered fairly in accordance with the Code, because tickets for some shows had already sold out; and
2. The Society of London Theatre had made a reasonable estimate of the likely response to the promotion and was capable of meeting that response.
1. The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) explained that Kids Week was an annual promotion that ran throughout August to introduce children to live theatre and make London theatre as accessible as possible for families. For every full paying adult ticket purchased, a child aged 16 or younger went free and up to two additional children per transaction could go for half price. The number of promotional tickets available for the shows (45 in 2015) depended on the ticket allocation received from the participating productions, which absorbed the cost of the free tickets.
SOLT explained that most popular productions, which generally had limited ticket availability, nonetheless still took part in Kids Week, because they supported the idea behind the promotion, but the number of tickets allocated was fewer than for some other shows. SOLT said, prior to the on-sale date, they ensured that their advertising did not focus on shows with a smaller allocation of tickets, even if the title of the show was likely to be an extra draw to consumers. A video on the Kids Week website, which included characters from some of the productions, intentionally excluded small allocation productions. Once the promotion was running, they only promoted shows which were selling slowly or for which they had received extra tickets.
SOLT believed that it was clear on their website, as well as the ticketing service website click-through when booking, that there was limited availability for some shows. Text on the “Book By Show” page stated, “We advise you to have at least two or three show options” and “Please be as flexible as possible with dates as certain shows sell out quickly” and the FAQ page stated “Some shows however do have limited ticket allocation …”. The “Top Tips” page stated, “When you are booking tickets, be flexible by having at least two or three show options and several dates available. Allocations for certain shows do sell quickly … remember not to promise your children any tickets before you’ve booked them!”.
SOLT explained that the ticket service website was capable of processing many hundreds of orders per minute and popular shows with fewer tickets to offer were therefore likely to sell out within seconds. In addition, once tickets were selected by a customer, they would show as unavailable to any other customer while the first customer had a limited period of time in which to make payment. They said the on-sale date opened at 10 am, and 12,589 concurrent sessions were logged at 10.01 am, with a peak of 17,512 concurrent sessions at 10.11 am. They sold 9000 tickets within 10 minutes of the promotion opening and by midnight 114,384 had been sold. They confirmed that the number of people attempting to purchase tickets for the two shows the complainants wanted to book far exceeded the number of tickets available and were likely to have sold out within minutes of going on sale. They acknowledged that the ticket allocation for the two productions was lower than for some other participating shows, but believed that it was better to offer some tickets for those shows than not having the tickets available at all. They said a third show also sold out within the first hour.
2. SOLT said they strongly encouraged their members to take part in the Kids Week promotion and to allocate as many tickets as possible, but they did not have control over the amount allocated, which was at the discretion of the participating productions. Nonetheless, they had secured a record-breaking allocation of 242,472 tickets for the on-sale date, which represented an increase of 115% on the total allocation in 2014 of 112,585. In the event of a show selling out, the website was amended accordingly. Based on past experience, they expected some tickets to remain unsold when the promotion closed and believed that they had made a reasonable estimate of the likely response to the promotion.
SOLT said the Kids Week was carefully positioned as a generic promotion of London theatre rather than a way of offering reduced price tickets for particular shows. The marketing emphasised that the offer was available across a large range of shows to ensure consumers understood the wide range of choice of productions. SOLT were aware that ticket availability for some very popular shows was limited and would sell out quickly, and had therefore provided information to that effect to enable customers to make an informed decision on whether or not to participate.
1. Not upheld
The ASA understood the number of tickets available for each show was dependent on the number allocated by the theatre and varied between productions, with fewer tickets allocated for some high profile shows, because of their already limited availability. The Kids Week promotion offered tickets for a wide range of shows across London theatres and, other than listing the names of the shows included in the promotion, the website did not highlight or specifically promote any individual production, but used general claims such as “more than 40 top London shows”, “the magic of London theatre” and “a fantastic selection of shows”. Although we understood that there were fewer tickets for some shows, we considered that consumers were likely to understand claims such as “Please be as flexible as possible with dates as certain shows sell out quickly” and “Some shows however do have limited ticket allocation” to mean that some productions were likely to sell out quickly and might no longer be bookable. We noted the ticketing service website was able to support thousands of sessions at any one time and capable of processing many hundreds of orders per minute and it was therefore understandable that the most popular productions, particularly those with a smaller allocation of tickets, were likely to sell out quickly.
We concluded that because the promotion was for a variety of shows rather than highlighting specific productions and the advertising warned of the limited availability for some productions, the promotion was unlikely to mislead and had been administered fairly.
On that point, we investigated the advertising under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 8.1 8.1 Promoters are responsible for all aspects and all stages of their promotions. and 8.2 8.2 Promoters must conduct their promotions equitably, promptly and efficiently and be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants and potential participants. Promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment. (Sales promotions) and 8.14 8.14 Promoters must ensure that their promotions are conducted under proper supervision and make adequate resources available to administer them. Promoters, agencies and intermediaries should not give consumers justifiable grounds for complaint. (Administration), but did not find it in breach..
2. Not upheld
We understood that SOLT had increased the overall number of tickets available by more than 100% on the number offered in 2014 and that, based on previous Kids Week promotions, there were likely to be some tickets still remaining when the promotion finished.
As stated above, we considered that it was clear that the promotion was offering tickets to a large range of West End shows rather than any specific production and, although some consumers might not be able to book their first choice show, we considered that, with over 242,000 tickets, there was a sufficient number of tickets available for consumers to be able to buy tickets to one or more of the shows on offer. We therefore concluded that SOLT had made a reasonable estimate of the likely response to the promotion and was capable of meeting that response.
On that point, we investigated the advertising under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 8.9 8.9 Phrases such as “subject to availability” do not relieve promoters of their obligation to do everything reasonable to avoid disappointing participants. 8.10 8.10 Promoters must be able to demonstrate that they have made a reasonable estimate of the likely response and either that they were capable of meeting that response or that consumers had sufficient information, presented clearly and in a timely fashion, to make an informed decision on whether or not to participate - for example regarding any limitation on availability and the likely demand. and 8.11 8.11 If promoters rely on being able to meet the estimated response but are unable to supply demand for a promotional offer because of an unexpectedly high response or some other unanticipated factor outside their control, they must ensure relevant timely communication with applicants and consumers and, in cases of any likely detriment, offer a refund or a reasonable substitute product. (Availability), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.