Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A brochure, for holidays in China in 2012, featured a detailed itinerary for a holiday which included a trip to the Great Wall of China and a cruise through the Three Gorges. Under the heading "Day 4 - Beijing", text stated "Oriental's Style: We avoid Badaling, the rather touristy and crowded section of the Great Wall. To enhance the experience a little further, a picnic lunch with a glass of bubbly will be arranged on a watchtower overlooking the mountains to make this day unforgettable!". Under the heading "Day 13, 14 - Yangtze River Cruising & Three Gorges", text stated "Experience the joy of waking up each morning to an endless procession of magnificent views slowly unfolding before you. The next two days you will sail through the Three Gorges of Qutang, Wu Xia and Xiling. Other highlights include a sampan ride through the Shennong Stream and shore excursions to the Fengdu Snow Jade Cave and Three Gorges Dam".
The complainant challenged whether the following claims were misleading:
1. that the trip included a picnic and glass of bubbly at the Great Wall of China; and
2. that the Yangtze River and Three Gorges cruise included a trip to the Xiling Gorge and Fengdu Snow Jade Cave.
1. & 2. The Oriental Travel Company (TOTC) did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by TOTC's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 1.7 Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA's enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the Code. (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and we told them to do so in future.
We understood from the complainant that, when they had taken the holiday in autumn 2012, the excursion to the Great Wall did not include the picnic lunch on a watchtower; their local guide had said that the authorities had stopped organised meals being taken onto the Wall some time ago. We noted TOTC had not responded or provided evidence to the contrary. We were therefore concerned that TOTC had continued to advertise the picnic on the Wall as part of the holiday itinerary when it appeared it was no longer possible for it to be included. We concluded the ad was misleading in that regard.
On this point, 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) 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).
We understood from the complainant that their holiday had not included sailing through the Xiling Gorge or the excursion to the Fengdu Snow Jade Cave. We noted TOTC had not provided any explanation as to why the complainant's holiday had not included those advertised elements. In the absence of any explanation as to why those elements were not included in the complainant's holiday as advertised, we concluded that the advertising claims were 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. and 3.4.1 3.4.1 the main characteristics of the product (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. We told TOTC to ensure that their holiday descriptions did not misleadingly imply elements were included in their holidays that might not be the case. We referred the matter to CAP's Compliance team.