A brochure and the website www.thomsonholidays.co.uk promoted Thomson Holidays.
a. The brochure ad was titled "Ermones, Atlantica Grand Mediterraneo Resort" and featured a box under pictures of the resort that stated "Exclusively for Adults".
b. The website ad stated "Atlantica Grand Mediterraneo Resort & Spa in Ermones, Corfu An adults-only hotel with a dramatic Cliffside setting ... Exclusively for Adults - Thomson's Exclusively for Adults range offers you the chance to find total tranquillity in a resort free from the bustle of families and young people - This carefully selected range of resort offers you the chance to enjoy a relaxed and independent break with your partner or a group of close friends - Thomson and the resort owners guarantee not knowingly to sell to anyone under the age of 16 - See Adult Properties in the A-Z Guide for more information ...".
A complainant challenged whether the claims "Exclusively for Adults" and "An adults-only hotel" were misleading, because she stayed at the hotel and found children were booked in.
Thomson Holidays (Thomson) said that, during the period the complainant stayed at the hotel, there were a small number of children staying. They said that for one day there were three children staying, for four days there were two children, and for the remaining three days there were no children staying. They said that was a very small number considering the hotel had 267 rooms.
Thomson said the A-Z guide stated that they could not guarantee that there would not be any children at the hotel. They said it was impossible to completely control the presence of children at the hotel and believed it was unreasonable to expect there would never be a child at the hotel. They said that, while they did their best to ensure there would not be children present, occasionally there might be children booked into the hotel or using the facilities. They said they could also not do anything to prevent people booking children into a hotel as an adult, which did sometimes happen. They said, however, that problems with children being present at "Exclusively for Adults" hotels were rare and believed that an occasional complaint was exceptional.
Thomson said they included detailed specifications in their contracts with hoteliers so that they were fully aware of what their "Couples" brand involved, and what the hoteliers needed to provide to their customers. They said hoteliers agreed to those specifications and it formed part of their agreement with them. They said hoteliers should not be accepting any bookings from anyone under the age of 16.
Thomson said the hotelier in the complainant's case had told Thomson that they were obliged to take bookings from a few families with children after they received a warning from their local authority after a family they refused to accept a booking from had complained. Following notification of the complaint made to the ASA, Thomson subsequently reached an agreement with the hotel that, because all their rooms were allocated to tour operators, they could legitimately say they had no vacancies if they received similar enquiries in future and would not be obliged to take local bookings from families with children.
The ASA acknowledged that it was rare for a child to be booked into an "Adults-Only" hotel. It was also noted that Thomson had a contract in place with Atlantica Grand Mediterraneo Resort & Spa that made clear they were offering their customers an "Adults-Only" hotel experience and had taken action following notification of the complaint made to the ASA so that in future the hotel would not be obliged to take local bookings from families with children. Nevertheless, we noted that children had been staying at the hotel for some of the time for which the complainant was there and that, while Thomson had taken action to avoid similar situations occurring again, they could not guarantee that children would never be present in the hotel. We considered that to be able to book a hotel where customers could avoid children also staying there was an important consideration. We considered that "Exclusively for Adults" and "An adults-only hotel" were absolute claims which were contradicted by the information in the A-Z guide. Because Thomson had not substantiated the claim, and because the information in the A-Z guide contradicted it, we concluded that the 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. (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 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification).
The claims must not appear again in their current form.