An advert for the the 14-night stay at the Melia Cayo Guillermo hotel, departing May 13, 2018, stated the total price had been reduced from £2,736 to £2,386, a saving of 13% (£350).
The ad was seen on November 24, 2017, and monitored for several months by the complainant, who raised concerns over the “was” price with the ASA.
The ASA on Wednesday (May 9) upheld the complaint, stating the savings claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.
In context, the ad stated: "Total price was £2,736.00 [crossed through] - Saving today (13%) -£350 - Total price £2,386.00.”
In its judgment, the ASA said Cook must “ensure savings claims represented genuine, meaningful savings against prices that had actually been charged for the holidays in question”.
Cook said the savings claim related to the launch price of the holiday, taking into account the costs and components of the trip, any promotional offers from suppliers, exchange rates and customer demand, adding the sale price could fluctuate after the launch in response to any changes to these factors.
A launch price of £1,375pp was set across a range of departures between December 13, 2016, and January 11, 2017. However, no bookings taken at launch price, which Cook said was not unusual given the departure dates were still 17 months away.
Cook said the absence of any bookings at launch price did not mean that price was not a genuine, retail price, but said it would be willing to look at how it could make changes so the pricing basis was clearer to consumers.
The ASA said while consumers were “generally aware” holiday pricing was fluid, “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”.
It was also upheld the “saving today” phrase suggested the lower price was time limited and in combination with the higher “was” price, suggested the price was more likely to increase rather than decrease.
The ASA added there was no explanation in the ad the savings claim was made against the launch price, but even if there was, it would have been meaningless to consumers unless it was genuine price that had actually been charged.
It has told Cook not to run the advert again in the form complained of.
A Thomas Cook spokesperson said: “We always try to be as clear as possible with our customers about our holiday prices, so we’re reviewing how we display the great offers and discounts that are available when you book with us.”