A press ad for package holidays to Madeira stated "5* Madeira A week All-inclusive from £445* 10 nights All-inclusive from £599* MONEY BACK GUARANTEE IF YOU FIND THE SAME HOLIDAY FOR LESS ... Departures May 2012 - August 2013*". Further text stated "ALL INCLUSIVE LATE LATE BARGAINS AT THE 5* ENOTEL LIDO RESORT & SPA" and quoted one week, all-inclusive prices which ranged from £639 to £719 for the period between May and August 2012. Small print at the bottom of the ad stated "*From prices apply to departures 04-15/01/13".
The complainant who did not believe the headline price of "from £445" was an accurate representation of the cost of the holiday, challenged whether it was misleading.
Sunspot Tours Ltd, trading as, Mercury Direct (Mercury Direct) said their prices were based on a live system and that, at the time the ad went to press, the holiday was available for £445 for departures between 4 and 15 January 2013. They also said the all-inclusive prices that ranged from £639 to £719 related to late bargains only, which was made clear in the claim "ALL INCLUSIVE LATE LATE BARGAINS AT THE 5* ENOTEL LIDO RESORT & SPA". They said the airline price may have changed by the time the ad was published and it was possible that the holiday was not available for £445 but that, because the ad stated "All offers are subject to availability and can be withdrawn without notice, terms and conditions apply" it was not misleading.
They said, since the ad was published, almost 200 individuals had booked the holiday. They attached a list of bookings and said, because their customers wanted to travel at different times of the year, the bookings were spread out over different travel periods. They submitted a screenshot of their website which showed prices for holidays between December 2012 and June 2013. They also submitted two invoices which they said demonstrated that, once credit card and baggage fees had been deducted, the holiday had been sold at £493.75 and £506.
The screenshot of the website indicated that on 20 June 2012the holiday was advertised at "from" £445 for departures in January 2013. The list of bookings indicated that between 14 April and 21 June 2012 a total of 91 bookings had been confirmed for almost 200 adults, five of which related to departures between 4 and 15 January 2013. The invoices demonstrated that two customers had booked an all-inclusive holiday at the Enotel Lido Resort and Spa in Madeira for two people for seven nights in January 2013 and that, after credit card and baggage charges had been deducted, the cost per person was £506.27 and £493.77.
The ad stated "5* Madeira A week All-inclusive from £445*... Departures May 2012 - August 2013*". The ASA considered that, in that context, consumers would expect that the holiday was available in sufficient quantities, throughout the stated travel period, for £445. The small print at the bottom of the ad stated "*From prices apply to departures 04-15/01/13" but this was a significant limitation that needed to be made clear in the body of the ad. The small print also stated "All offers are subject to availability & can be withdrawn without notice" but we had not received any evidence that demonstrated that the holiday had been available at £445 for the relevant departure dates. Because the ad did not make sufficiently clear that the holiday was only available from £445 for departures between 4 and 15 January 2013, the headline claim "from £445" exaggerated the availability of the holiday likely to be obtained by the consumer at that price. We therefore concluded that it was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (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. (Qualification) and 3.17 3.17 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product featured in the marketing communication. and 3.22 3.22 Price claims such as "up to" and "from" must not exaggerate the availability or amount of benefits likely to be obtained by the consumer. (Prices).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Mercury Direct to ensure that restricted travel periods were made clear in the body of the ad.