Background

Summary of Council decision

Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.

Ad description

A website and a paid-for search ad for the website www.ethiopiansairliness.co.uk, seen on 19 May 2017:

a. The website featured several images of planes with the Ethiopian Airlines logo on them. The top left-hand corner of the website included the text "Ethiopian" alongside green, yellow and red stripes, and six symbols. Directly below, text stated "THE NEW SPIRIT OF AFRICA". Further text at the bottom of the web page stated "Our website should not be considered a representation of the airline. It is to provide options for flights and promote sales worldwide."

b. The paid-for search ad featured the claim "Book Ethiopian Airline - ethiopiansairliness.co.uk" above the URL www.ethiopiansairliness.co.uk.

Issue

1. The complainant, who noted that ad (a) was the website of a third party travel agency, challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that it was the official Ethiopian Airlines website.

2. They also challenged whether ad (b) misleadingly implied that, by clicking the link, they were accessing the official Ethiopian Airlines website.

Response

1. & 2. Tickets House Ltd t/a www.ethiopiansairliness.co.uk believed that their ads did not suggest that they were the official Ethiopian Airlines website. They said that, at the bottom of every page on ad (a), text stated "Our website should not be considered a representation of the Airline".

Assessment

1. Upheld

The ASA noted that an image very similar to the official Ethiopian Airlines logo featured in the top left-hand corner of the home page of the website. The tagline "The New Spirit of Africa", which appeared underneath the image, was also the official tagline of Ethiopian Airlines, and was positioned directly underneath the logo in the same manner as it was positioned on the official Ethiopian Airlines website. We considered that consumers were likely to understand from the logo and tagline that the website was the official website for Ethiopian Airlines, and that the images of the planes with the Ethiopian Airlines logo on them contributed further to that impression. While we acknowledged that there was text at the bottom of the home page which stated "our website should not be considered a representation of the airline, it is to provide options for flights and promote sales worldwide", we considered that the text was not sufficiently prominent, and so was likely to be overlooked by consumers. Furthermore, there was no other text on the home page of the website that indicated that the website was a third party travel agency and not the official Ethiopian Airlines website. For those reasons, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead consumers.

On that 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.    3.3 3.3 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.
   3.5 3.5 Marketing communications must not materially mislead by omitting the identity of the marketer.
Some marketing communications must include the marketer's identity and contact details. Marketing communications that fall under the Database Practice or Employment sections of the Code must comply with the more detailed rules in those sections.
Marketers should note the law requires marketers to identify themselves in some marketing communications. Marketers should take legal advice.
 (Misleading advertising) and  3.41 3.41 Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer about who manufactures the product.  (Imitation and denigration).

2. Upheld

We noted that the text of the URL in ad (b), ethiopiansairliness.co.uk, appeared prominently in the headline claim. It contained the same URL as the official Ethiopian Airlines website except for an extra letter "s" in the middle and at the end of the URL, and a "co.uk" instead of a ".com" domain. We considered that those differences were likely to have been overlooked by consumers viewing the ad, and they were therefore likely to assume from the URL that it was for the official Ethiopian Airline website. We considered that the headline claim "Book Ethiopian Airline" alongside the URL contributed further to the impression that the ad was for the official website. Furthermore, there was no information within the ad that indicated that the ad was for a third party travel agency. For those reasons, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead consumers into thinking that the link would direct consumers to the official Ethiopian Airlines website.

On that 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.    3.3 3.3 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.
   3.5 3.5 Marketing communications must not materially mislead by omitting the identity of the marketer.
Some marketing communications must include the marketer's identity and contact details. Marketing communications that fall under the Database Practice or Employment sections of the Code must comply with the more detailed rules in those sections.
Marketers should note the law requires marketers to identify themselves in some marketing communications. Marketers should take legal advice.
 (Misleading advertising) and  3.41 3.41 Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer about who manufactures the product.  (Imitation and denigration).

Action

The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Ticket House to make clear that the ads were not for the official Ethiopian Airlines website and were instead for a third party travel agency.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

3.1     3.3     3.41     3.5    


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