Trailfinders’ free night and room upgrade offers were misleading, says watchdog

By Linsey McNeill
Home » Trailfinders’ free night and room upgrade offers were misleading, says watchdog

Trailfinders has been reprimanded by the advertising watchdog for an Australia and Pacific 2021/22 holiday brochure that advertised a third night free and a free room upgrade.

A consumer, who chose a holiday on the basis of the offers, complained to the Advertising Standards Authority when they found they were not available on the dates they’d chosen.

In its defence, Trailfinders said the brochure was printed in October 2020 and ‘it had not been known at the time of printing that the time that would follow would be one of extremely limited travel opportunities to Australia due to the Covid-19 pandemic’.

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

Also, the offers were mutually exclusive.

Trailfinders also said the 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.

Offers could be removed by a hotel at any time and were usually linked to a fixed number of rooms.

A price in the brochure was flagged as a ‘Guide Price’ with the instruction to ‘Call for latest price and offers’. These points were covered in the terms and conditions printed in the same brochure, Trailfinders told the ASA.

However, the watchdog upheld the complaint, saying the consumers seeing the ad would expect to receive the third night free and a free room upgrade if they booked the holiday advertised.

It said consumers were unlikely to understand that restrictions and exclusions applied to the offers listed against the holiday.

“There was therefore 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,” said the ASA.

It also pointed out that although the terms and conditions at the back of the brochure explained that special offers were subject to change and availability, there was no mention of the T&Cs on the holiday page.

“Furthermore, even if that information had appeared on the holiday page, we considered it did not explain sufficiently clearly the significant information that the offers would only ever be available for certain holiday dates; that they were limited in number; and that the two offers listed were not available together,” added the ASA.

“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.”

Trailfinders has been told not to repeat the ad in its current form and to ensure that its ads make it clear if offers are subject to restrictions and include significant information about the restrictions.

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