A complainant challenged whether the ad by Opodo (www.opodo.co.uk) was misleading. The prices displayed included a pre-applied discount that did not take third party fees into account, especially for those paying via Entropay, a pre-paid visa card.
Opodo Ltd said their aim was to offer consumers the best travel and flight availability and the most competitive prices. They said, to their price-sensitive customers, what mattered most was the best price for the flights on offer. Opodo believed that the pricing was open and transparent and instantly told consumers what the full and final price was for each flight that matched their chosen criteria.
Finally, the final price to be paid by consumers comprised the cost of the flight, taxes, Opodo’s service charge and the cost of the payment method.
The search facility on the homepage offered consumers the ability to specify the payment method or to ask to see the cheapest payment method. By default, only four fields are shown: destination, dates, passenger age and payment method, with an additional option to tick for direct flights and another to extend their search criteria.
The online travel agent (OTA) added that the reason payment method was one of the four search criteria was so that consumers could be certain as to the final price they would have to pay for every flight that corresponded with their search criteria.
Opodo did accept that there was a possibility that the “Cheapest method” claim could mislead and the ASA welcomed the OTA’s willingness to make changes to their advertising.
This cheapest option did not take third party fees into account. The cheapest option was, at times, was to use an Entropay card. This is a virtual visa card has had to be loaded with funds before use. The fee for this varied between 3.95 and 4.95%
The ASA felt that consumers need to know that they would be charged for pre-loading the card, and how much that charge would be. However, no information about the rate payable amount of the fees was presented either on the home page or on the results page. The ASA considered that the omission of Entropay’s fees was likely to mislead consumers as there were instances where adding the Entropay fee onto the total price would mean that it would not be the cheapest payment option for the consumer.
As the charges for pre-loading the card meant that, in effect, it was not the cheapest payment method in those instances, the ASA considered that the claim “Cheapest method” was misleading.
It ruled the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 and 3.4.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Qualification), and 3.17 and 3.19 (Prices).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. Opodo Ltd must ensure that they did not claim that the Entropay payment method was the cheapest if that was not the case, and to ensure that they did not omit material information relating to fees associated with the Entropay payment method from their ads.