The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has given the country’s second largest operator a rather firm slap on the wrist, ordering it not to claim a holiday has been discounted unless it can prove that it has actually sold one at the original price. ASA told Thomas Cook that it wasn’t enough simply to claim the package was cheaper than the launch price if no bookings had been taken.
A consumer had complained to the ASA about an ad on Thomascook.com for a 14-night all-inclusive holiday at the Melia Cayo Guillermo in Cuba, which claimed that the holiday was £2,736 ($3,698) and had been discounted by £350 ($473). The consumer said they had been monitoring the price for several months and queried whether the savings claim against the ‘was price’ could be substantiated.
Thomas Cook Retail told the ASA the holiday had gone on sale 17 months before the date of departure, but it admitted that no bookings had been taken at the full price. However, it said this should not be interpreted to mean that the launch price was not a genuine, retail price, but said it was willing to consider how it could make changes so that the pricing basis of holidays would be clearer to consumers.
Upholding the complaint that the Thomas Cook advertisement was misleading, the agency said: “The ASA considered consumers were generally aware that holiday pricing was fluid and that some variation in price might occur for that type of product, but that consumers would understand the savings claim against the ‘was’ price to mean that by purchasing the holiday at the lower price shown in the ad the consumer would be making a genuine, meaningful saving against a price that had actually been charged …
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Thomas Cook Retail Ltd to ensure savings claims represented genuine, meaningful savings against prices that had actually been charged for the holidays in question.”
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