Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A website ad, on www.olympicholidays.com, for The Sun Club Hotel Bodrum Gumbet, described the hotel as "ideal for ... families" and listed its amenities and facilities, including "24 hour room service", "Laundry service", "Fitness room", "Massage (payable locally)", "Sauna" and "Turkish bath".
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the references to "24 hour room service", "Laundry service", "Fitness room", "Massage", "Sauna" and "Turkish bath" were misleading, because those facilities were not available to hotel guests; and
2. the description of the hotel as "ideal for ... families" was misleading, because the hotel was located on a street of noisy bars and clubs which were open until the early hours of the morning.
1. Olympic Holidays (Olympic) acknowledged that the claim "24 hour room service" was not accurate. They said the claim should have stated "24 hour reception" and they would amend it accordingly. They said, however, that the laundry service, fitness room, massage, sauna and Turkish bath facilities were available. In support of the claims they provided: a link to the hotel's own website, which referenced the fitness room; a hotel 'Fact Sheet' provided to them by the company which owned the hotel, which listed all the facilities referenced in the ad; and a copy of their contract with the hotel.
2. Olympic considered such statements were a matter of opinion and that the claim could be interpreted in a number of ways. They understood the complainant had interpreted the reference to "families" to refer to parents with young children but they believed others might interpret it to refer to parents with teenagers or adult children, or to other familial groupings. They said the hotel was located on a road typical of a busy, popular resort, with bars and clubs on the road, but also a number of hotels and restaurants. They said some families would not object to a hotel located on a road with bars and clubs, or would prefer a 'lively' location in the centre of a resort, and would therefore accept noise at night as a necessary trade-off. Notwithstanding that, they considered that a hotel's location was not the only criterion in deciding whether it was suitable, or "ideal", for families. The said the hotel had a range of facilities that would appeal to families, such as a children's pool, a play area, games facilities and an all-inclusive price. They considered the claim "ideal ... for families" was, therefore, appropriate.
The ASA welcomed Olympic's offer to amend the claim "24 hour room service" to "24 hour reception", although we noted that the ad in fact already referred to "24 hour reception" in addition to the reference to room service.
With regard to the other claims, we understood from the complainant that they had been unable to make use of, or find any information about, a laundry service when they stayed at the hotel, and that the building which housed the Turkish bath, sauna and fitness room was closed to guests and instead was used as accommodation for hotel staff. They sent us photos of the Turkish bath, which was empty of water and had furniture stacked in the adjoining room, and gym equipment which was not in a 'fitness room', but was located alongside chairs and tables in a covered area of the garden. The complainant also referred us to a travel website where a number of reviews of the hotel made references to the lack of the advertised 'spa' facilities. We noted the information provided by Olympic, but considered that it was not adequate evidence to substantiate that the hotel actually provided a laundry service, functioning fitness room, Turkish bath, sauna and massage service as advertised. We concluded the claims had not been substantiated and 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. (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) and 3.11 3.11 Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product. (Exaggeration).
We acknowledged that 'families' would not necessarily consist of parents with young children, and that the level of noise at night would not be the only factor that might influence a family's choice of hotel. However, we considered that in the context of the tourism industry, consumers would generally understand references to accommodation being "ideal for families" or "family friendly" as meaning that the accommodation would be particularly suitable for parents with children of school age. Whilst we agreed that consumers would expect that a hotel described as "ideal for families" would have a range of facilities/activities specifically designed for children, we considered that unless otherwise indicated, consumers would also expect that there would not be loud noise throughout the night. We concluded that, in order to avoid misleading consumers by omission, the ad should have made clear that the hotel was located on a busy street of bars and clubs.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
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) and 3.11 3.11 Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product. (Exaggeration).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Olympic not to make claims for which they did not hold adequate substantiation, and not to make claims which were misleading either by statement or omission.