The advert also breached the ASA’s rules regarding the availability of the offer within its guidelines of promotional marketing.
Customers on Park Plaza Hotels Europe’s mailing list received a newsletter on 20 October 2016 which said: “BLACK FRIDAY ARRIVED EARLY LONDON £119…Enjoy Black Friday one week early with our exclusive offer…£119 for all our London hotels. Book before 23.59pm (CET) Tuesday 22 November 2016 on parkplaza.com for stays between 18 November 2016 and 15 April 2017”.
Two customers complained that they could not find any rooms for £119, suggested the advert was misleading, and questioned its authenticity.
The ASA ruled the advert must not appear again in the form that attracted the complaints. Park Plaza Hotels Europe has been told to ensure “it made a reasonable estimate of likely response to promotions and included sufficient information regarding likely availability in future.”
At the bottom of the email, the newsletter stated that terms and conditions would apply, which included a clause specifying that the offer was subject to availability along with certain dates that were excluded from the deal.
The hotel group claimed that it was usual to offer the lowest category of rooms and customers understood that premium charges would apply for desired rooms. Park Plaza said it believed it had enough room availability for the deal but it had significantly outperformed other campaigns:.
The promotion generated nearly 1,000 room-nights, compared to only 30 room-nights just one month earlier for a similar promotion.
The ASA also said Park Plaza had not provided enough detail to show how they estimated the demand for the offer or how many rooms were available at the promotional price.
Despite stating the offer was “subject to availability”, the ASA ruled that the requirement for information regarding availability was on a separate page and therefore not prominent.
The ASA considered that knowing that a certain date or hotel had very limited availability would determine a consumer’s decision in booking a room and therefore, should be included in the main body of text.
In a statement, the ASA said: “Because Park Plaza Hotels had not demonstrated that they had made a reasonable estimate of the likely response and had not included sufficient information about the likely room availability at the promotional price, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”
A spokesperson for PPHE, which owns the Park Plaza brand, said: “PPHE Hotel Group can confirm that … a final ruling has been made stating that the Group’s Park Plaza Hotels & Resorts brand has not been able to substantiate a specific rate advertised externally under the promotion “Black Friday Arrived Early London £119”.
“PPHE Hotel Group has worked closely with the ASA, supplying various documents in support of the advertised rates being clearly available with associated terms and conditions, subject to availability. The group is disappointed to be informed that the ruling has been made against the brand.
“PPHE Hotel Group stands by the fact that the promotion’s advertised rates were bookable subject to availability and is investigating whether promotional terms and conditions need to be amended to ensure an increased level of clarity at all times.”