ASA raps Daily Mail for misleading '£15 holiday' giveaway

Availability of offer and additional cumpolsury service charges revealed as main factors for complai

The Advertising Standards Authority has censured the Daily Mail over a sales promotion offering holidays to readers "from £15".

The advertising watchdog banned the ad after upholding three separate complaints that it was misleading to readers.

The sales promotion included a front-page flash stating "Fabulous family holidays from just £15 see four-page pullout in the middle of the paper".

The small print added: "Per person - Based on four sharing. Service charge and conditions apply".

Text on the front of the enclosed pullout stated "A holiday in a standard caravan could be yours from just £15 per person ... all the comforts of home and all the facilities of coastal holiday parks in England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Wight. Our full list of participating parks is printed overleaf ..."

A reader complained to the ASA, challenging the "holidays from just £15 per person" claim as they understood there was an additional, compulsory service charge for each of the destinations advertised in the promotion.

A second complainant challenged the availability of the offer, telling the ASA they had enquired on the first day of the offer and been told that there were no holidays available for the month of August.

Inside the newspaper's holiday pullout was a list of participating holiday parks which included the applicable service charges and the cost of entertainment passes for each.

The ASA itself challenged the Daily Mail on whether the ad was misleading as it did not make clear that "Entertainment and Clubroom Passes" were required to access a number of on-site facilities at some of the parks.

When approached by the ASA, the Daily Mail said qualifying text on the front page, an explanation in the body of the promotion and the terms and conditions of the offer all made clear that service charges and conditions applied to the £15 rate.

The Mail also told the ASA that August was the most popular month for holidays and all availability for that month was exhausted in the first two days of the offer.

In addition, it said the promotion made clear that, in some cases, entertainment and clubroom passes may be required to access non-entertainment facilities such as swimming pools, restaurants and bars.

Despite these claims the ASA upheld all three complaints against the newspaper and ruled that the promotion must not appear again in its current form.

The ASA ruled that the advertised headline price of "from ... £15 per person" would be interpreted by consumers to mean that some holidays would be available at the minimum advertised price.

However, it found that for each of the holiday parks an additional, compulsory service charge of between £5 and £6.50 was also levied per unit per night.

The ASA said documentation provided by the Mail proved there was significantly less availability in August than during the rest of the offer period.

"We considered that there was insufficient availability in August to ensure that consumers had a reasonable prospect of taking up the offer during the peak holiday period," the ASA ruled.

"We therefore considered that the promotion should have made clear that there was limited availability for the month of August in order to avoid disappointing consumers. Because it did not, we concluded that the promotion was misleading."

In addition, the ASA said the fact that entertainment passes might be required in order to access other amenities was a "significant condition that was likely to influence readers understanding of the offer" and therefore should have been made clear in the body of the promotion.

Oliver Luft and Dominic Ponsford write for the Press Gazette