A website, www.crystalsummer.co.uk, for holiday packages, viewed on 16 April 2014, featured a search facility. Upon entering search criteria, search results were returned that indicated the "package price" per adult and the "total party price". The search results included a link labelled "(details)" that linked to a pop-up text box that stated "Your package price. Our website's prices are updated every morning. The total party price shown includes all compulsory taxes and charges. Our per adult prices are based on the cheapest adult price available. We always find you the cheapest price first so there's no need to hunt around for the best deal … In some circumstances, prices and availability may update during the day so you may find price differences later in the booking process. This is usually due to high demand for the selected holiday. Should you have any issues with this, please contact us ...”.
Upon clicking through to complete the booking process, a page was presented that featured text that stated "Woah there, something sold out ... The room options you selected in XXXXX XXXXXXXX are no longer available. You will need to go back and choose your rooms again".
The complainant, who had been quoted an initial package price, before being informed that the room they had selected was not available, challenged the availability of the advertised offer.
TUI UK Ltd t/a Crystal Summer said that the prices on their website were updated each morning and that their reservation system was updated once per day. They said that, upon making a booking the reservation system and website checked the booking against the live database, which was automatically updated and therefore an accurate record of current availability.
Crystal Summer responded to the complainant's specific search criteria. They said they had a contract with the hotel in question for a specified number of rooms over a certain period, subject to availability. They explained that, after the close of business on 15 April 2014, the hotel had requested that it was removed from sale on www.crystalsummer.co.uk. They said that because the change was not added to the list of website amendments to be uploaded during the overnight update, the website was not updated to reflect the updated availability until 17 April 2014; the day after the complainant had performed their search. However, they confirmed that the advertised offer could not be purchased via the website on 16 April 2014; the day the complainant performed their search.
The ASA noted the website returned search results for specific search criteria entered by consumers, which included desired departure point and destination, the date of travel and the number of passengers in the group. The search results page included a link labelled "(details)" that linked to a pop-up text box that stated "Our website's prices are updated every morning … In some circumstances, prices and availability may update during the day so you may find price differences later in the booking process". The search results formed part of a live booking process through which consumers could purchase the advertised holiday. In the overall context of the ad, we considered consumers would expect the search results to relate to the data they had entered.
In the complainant's case, the search results indicated there was availability of their chosen holiday at the advertised price. However, at the conclusion of the booking process, they were informed that the holiday they had selected was not available. We understood that the hotel in question had requested that it be withdrawn from sale by Crystal Summer for the date in question, but that due to technical limitations the website showed the holiday as available.
Because the search results advertised a holiday that was not available at the time the ad appeared, we concluded that the ad was 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 3.29 3.29 Marketers must monitor stocks. If a product becomes unavailable, marketers must, whenever possible, withdraw or amend marketing communications that feature that product. (Availability).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Crystal Summer to ensure that the advertised prices were available to consumers at the time they appeared.