Published on Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cheapflights misled consumers, says advertising watchdog


Flight comparison website Cheapflights.co.uk has been found guilty of misleading consumers.


The advertising watchdog found that lead-in fares advertised on Cheapflights.co.uk in September last year were extremely limited and sometimes not even available by the time they were advertised.


The company was investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) following a complaint by a customer who was told that flights from London to Colombia, advertised at prices from £474 to £626, were not available at those prices when he wanted to book.


In its defence, Cheapflights said most advertised flights had departure date restrictions and it was therefore possible the complainant had misunderstood the date restrictions stated for each flight. It said its website also clearly stated that the flights were subject to availability.  


Cheapflights pointed out that it is not a travel agency dealing directly with customers, it is an online media company and advertising platform. It searches over one million flights a day and publishes the best deals sent by airlines, online travel agents and smaller specialist high street agencies.


It said it followed up any consumer concerns to ensure stated prices were correct or that any mistakes were removed, because advertisers were responsible for posting valid fares. The advertisers received warnings in relation to any such errors, it said, and it operates a 'three strikes' policy for advertisers that continue to cause justified complaints.


However, the ASA said Cheapflights and its partners must make it clear to customers when fares are extremely limited. It said it was insufficient for Cheapflights to tell customers they needed to 'check with the advertiser at the time of booking'.



By Linsey McNeill

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  • Small print syndrome again!

    quote "It said its website also clearly stated that the flights were subject to availability." I read this as advertising flights which are not or no longer available. The question that comes to mind is when does an offer become no longer an offer, and if it has timed out or sold out, should it still be advertised? Small print syndrome again!

    By Paul Davis, Friday, January 6, 2012

  • Response to ASA finding

    Cheapflights has been working with the ASA since we were first notified of the complaint at the end of November. Following discussions with the ASA we have already stregnthend the message to consumers about the availability of Airline Contract deals provided to us which are offered between set dates (like the ones complained about)by our industry advertisers on our site. We have issued a statement ourselves which is to be found on our site at: http://www.cheapflights.co.uk/about-us/press-releases/2012/statement-in-response-to-asa-announcement/

    By John Barrington-Carver, Wednesday, January 4, 2012

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