Online travel agency dial4travel.co.uk misled consumers by advertising return flights from the UK to Australia from £512.
An advert seen in May promoted Singapore Airlines flights from Heathrow to Perth departing on November 18 and back on December 2.
The advert by Dial4travel, owned by Flights & Holidays UK, stated that the price of the flights was ‘Per Adult fr £512’. Below the listed price, the ad stated ‘Limited Availability’.
The advertising watchdog was alerted by a consumer who found that the stated price was not available, challenged whether the claim ‘Per Adult fr £512’ was misleading and could be substantiated.
Flights & Holidays UK said the price in the ad had been valid for a “couple of days” during a special sale, but was still showing on the website due to an error by its fares team and advised that it would not happen again.
The ad had been amended following the compliant to include information which made clear the date of the most recent update to prices and that availability was indicative of the price updates and when those took place.
It also explained what consumers needed to do in order to find the most up-to-date prices.
The company said that limited availability was mentioned on every listing and it was not possible to add any additional text due to the design of the website.
However, upholding the compliant, the Adverting Standards Authority ruled that the advert must not appear again in its current form.
The ASA said: “We told Dial4Travel to ensure prices were updated frequently, to make immediately and prominently clear the time and date of the most recent update to the price, that prices were subject to change and what consumers needed to do in order to find the most up-to-date prices.”
Explaining its action, the ASA said it “considered that consumers would understand from the ad that they would be able to purchase the flight for £512 and, in the absence of any information to the contrary, that the price was accurate and that the flight was available for purchase”.
The authority added: “Although the ad included the text “fr” before the price, we considered that abbreviation was unlikely to be understood to mean ‘from’ by a significant number of consumers.
“We understood that the advertiser was a travel agent and that there were technical limitations on their ability to include real-time flight prices on their website.
“We considered that, in those circumstances, they needed to ensure that the prices were updated frequently, that the ad made clear the time of the most recent update and that they were subject to change.
“While we noted that the advertiser had amended the ad to include the text ‘*Price updated 24 hours ago & subject to availability’ at the bottom of the web page, we did not consider that information was sufficiently prominent to offset the impression that the stated prices were current and available.
“We considered that the ad needed to make clear, as soon as consumers saw the prices, that they were the cheapest prices in a range.
“The ad also needed to make clear the most recent time and date at which prices were updated, that they were subject to change and what consumers needed to do to obtain the most up-to-date prices.
“Because the ad did not do that, we concluded that it was misleading.”