Ad watchdog raps Trailfinders for brochure offer

 The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint about a Trailfinders brochure, saying its special hotel offers were misleading.

The complaint was about an Australia and Pacific 2021-2022 holidays brochure, seen on February 24, 2022, which contained text under individual holidays which stated: “Trailfinders Offers – 3rd night free – free room upgrade”.

Further on in the brochure, text stated: “Due to the complexity, dynamism and varied restrictions that apply to special offers, we only give a general indication of available offers. Please call for full details”. On another page, text stated: “Special offers can be withdrawn or amended at any time”.

The complainant, who chose a holiday on the basis of the offers but was told they were not available on the chosen dates, challenged whether the ad was misleading.

Trailfinders said the brochure was printed on October 12, 2020, and was distributed from November 5, 2020.

It had not been known at the time of printing that the period that would follow would be one of extremely limited travel opportunities to Australia because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Trailfinders said offers would have been available for specific dates and were usually valid for a limited number of rooms only.

It supplied the dates for which the “3rd night free” and “free room upgrade” offers were valid for the holiday in which the complainant was interested. The offers were mutually exclusive.

It also said special offers in the brochure were a general indication only of what was available at the time of going to press and were subject to the complex and dynamic nature of pricing in the travel industry.

The ASA considered consumers seeing the ad would expect to receive the “3rd night free” and “free room upgrade” offers if they booked the holiday advertised – unless the hotel was fully booked on the requested dates or did not have rooms to upgrade to, as would always be the case when booking a hotel room.

It acknowledged that the price was flagged on that page as “GUIDE PRICE” with the instruction to “Call for latest price & offers”.

However, while that was likely to be interpreted by consumers to mean that a brochure price might be subject to change and that other offers might become available, it considered consumers were unlikely to understand it to mean that restrictions and exclusions applied to the offers listed against the holiday.

There was no indication on the holiday page that the offers were restricted, both in terms of certain dates being excluded and the offers being mutually exclusive.

The ASA ruling said: “Because the ad did not make it sufficiently clear that the offers were subject to restrictions and did not include significant information about the restrictions, we concluded that it was misleading.

“The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Trailfinders Ltd to ensure that ads made it sufficiently clear if offers were subject to restrictions and included significant information about the restrictions.”