A TV advert for Booking.com promoting free cancellations “most of the time” has been banned as being misleading.
The advertising watchdog upheld a compliant against the company’s advert which was screened last July promoting different features of the Booking.com website.
The complainant, who believed the cancellation fee was included in the package price, challenged whether the claim “…if you have to cancel, cancel. Most of the time it’s free” was misleading and could be substantiated.
Booking.com argued that the phrase informed customers that the majority, but not all properties, allowed cancellation without charge.
But the Advertising Standard Authority upheld the complaint and ruled that the advert must not be broadcast again.
“We told Booking.com not to describe the cancellation option for rooms as ‘free’ if a premium was paid for that option,” the ASA said.
“We noted that customers who booked the free cancellation option, but opted not to cancel the booking, would subsequently pay more for the same room than the customers who had opted for the non-refundable option.
“While we acknowledged that if a customer cancelled the free cancellation booking within the relevant time period, they would benefit from having made the booking at no financial cost.
“Nevertheless, we considered that consumers would not regard the cancellation provision as an additional and/or free benefit which incurred no cost, because the price of the booking was more expensive when it included the cancellation option.
“Because at the time of the complaint the ad stated that cancellation was free, which we understood was not the case because a booking with the cancellation option was more expensive than one without, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”