ASA Adjudication on Sunspot Tours Ltd
Sunspot Tours Ltd t/a
15 August 2012
Holidays and travel
Number of complaints:
A newspaper ad featured in the Mail on Sunday offered package holidays in Benidorm. Headline text stated "2 weeks 4* Half Board with a 3rd week FREE next winter fr. £399*". Underneath a picture of Benidorm, text stated "Departures June 2012 - April 2013*". The ad featured a chart headed "WINTERSUN GETAWAYS AT THE 4* HOTEL PRINCESA" which listed starting prices for holidays between November 2012 and April 2013. The "from" prices for a two-week adult holiday (with some dates also including a free third week) ranged from £399 to £589. Small print at the bottom of the ad stated "*'From' price for 2 weeks with a 3rd week FREE applies to departures 26/11/12-03/12/12 & 03/01/13-10/01/13 ... All offers are subject to availability & can be withdrawn without notice. Terms and conditions apply ... Prices were costed on 29/05/12 & are subject to change since going to print".
The complainant, who had attempted to book a two-week holiday shortly after the ad appeared and had been informed that the advertised price was not available, challenged whether the quoted "from" price of £399 was misleading and could be substantiated.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Sunspot Tours Ltd, trading as Mercury Direct, (Mercury Direct) responded that they were a tour operator and based their prices on a live flight system over which they did not have any control. They stated that on the date the ad was sent to the newspaper for publication the two-week holiday had been available for £399 for the dates shown and provided an example invoice demonstrating that some people who had responded to the ad had been able to book it at that price. Mercury Direct explained that their reliance on a live flight system meant that the airline prices could have changed by the time the complainant called to enquire about making a booking, and that would have resulted in a higher quote for the holiday. They said they sought to comply with the requirements of the CAP Code and pointed out that the ad included small print which stated "All offers are subject to availability and can be withdrawn without notice" and "Prices were costed on 29/05/12 & are subject to change since going to print". Mercury Direct stated that they had received a positive response to the ad and did not consider that it was misleading.
The ASA acknowledged that Mercury Direct were a tour operator and could not control the prices of the flight element of their holidays, and that changes in the price quoted for the holiday would be because of issues connected with flight availability. We understood that the example booking provided had been made in response to the ad being run in the national press, and considered that it demonstrated the holiday had been available for the dates stated for £399.
We noted that the CAP Code required that price claims such as "from" did not exaggerate the availability of benefits likely to be obtained by the consumer. However, we considered that the small print of the ad made sufficiently clear that the quoted "from" price was subject to availability, could be withdrawn without notice and could have changed after the ad went to print. Because Mercury Direct was not able to exercise any control over the availability of flights, and because the small print made clear that prices may be available for a short time only, we concluded that the ad and the quoted "from" price of £399 were not misleading.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.17 and 3.22 (Prices) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.