Claims on www.hotelopia.com stated, "Radisson Blu Hotel Manchester airport … Pay at hotel".
The complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading because his card was charged before the date of his booking.
TUI Travel plc (TUI Travel) said that the "pay at hotel" offer applied to refundable rates. They explained that the hotel could decide when to charge the booking fee if the rate was non-refundable. They pointed out that the complainant had chosen a non-refundable rate. They said the complainant should have been aware that he could not pay at the hotel because he had chosen the lowest rate. They said that there were a number of immediate and subsequent indications that the complainant would not be able to pay at the hotel, including the TUI Travel non-refundable icon at the point of sale, which stated "Non-refundable rate. No amendments permitted" in a box that appeared when hovering over the icon, and text that appeared via a "More information" hyperlink during the payment process, which stated, "in case of a non-refundable fee, depending on the hotel, the hotel can charge the total amount at the time of booking". TUI Travel were willing to make some changes to the website to clarify that "pay at hotel" only applied to refundable bookings. For example, they were willing to change the "pay at hotel" claim to "pay to hotel" and include text explaining the limitation in a hover-box over the non-refundable rate icon, in another hover-box that appeared over the "pay at hotel" claim and in a banner that appeared when confirming the reservation. However, they were not willing to include the text "for refundable rates" immediately after the claim.
The ASA acknowledged that there were some indications during the payment process that the "pay at hotel" claim did not apply to non-refundable bookings. We also noted that TUI Travel were willing to make some amendments to their website. However, we considered the suggested changes did not make it sufficiently clear that the "pay at hotel" claim applied only to refundable rates because they were at least one click or hover away from the ad. We considered that the refundable rate limitation was material information, which should be disclosed on the ad, in equal prominence to the claim. We considered that consumers may be misled by the omission of that information, which might have an impact on them wanting to book the hotel. We considered that the qualifications contradicted rather than clarified the claim. We also considered that consumers may not recognise the TUI Travel non-refundable rate icon or click the "More information" hyperlink during the payment process. We noted that the "pay at hotel" claim was placed where the "pay on-line" claim appeared for other hotels. We considered that, when viewed in conjunction with these claims, consumers were likely to interpret "pay at hotel" to mean that payment was taken at the hotel rather than before check-in. Because of that, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
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 3.7 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 in its current form. We told TUI Travel to make material information sufficiently clear on their ads in future.