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Published on Wednesday, January 8, 2020

InterContinental Hotels' 'best price guarantee' was misleading, says ASA






Advertising watchdogs have warned Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) that its price guarantee for Holiday Inn Express is misleading and it has been ordered to make its terms and conditions clearer.


A customer complained to the Advertising Standards Authority after IGH refused to honour its Best Price Guarantee for the Holiday Inn Express in Nine Elms on its website.


A ad on the site read: "We promise you the lowest available price online, or we'll match it and give you five times the IHG Rewards Club points, up to a 40,000-point maximum".


However, the customer challenged whether the ad was misleading when they found a cheaper room but were unable to claim the refund and additional points.


IHG said under its Best Price Guarantee, if a guest booked a hotel room directly with IHG and within 24 hours of making that reservation they found a lower rate online for the same hotel room, number of guests and reservation dates, and then submitted a qualifying claim to IHG, they would match the lower online room rate for that hotel stay and give the guest five times the IHG Rewards Club points, up to a 40,000-point maximum. 


However, in order to achieve a qualifying claim, consumers would need to show that they booked at the lowest available rate on the IHG website and that the lower rate on the non-IHG website was available to book at the time of IHG's own verification, which it would carry out within 24 hours of a guest contacting them about the claim. 


It stated that to verify the claim they would carry out a test booking for the identified room. It would not accept screenshots from customers to prove that the room was available at a lower rate. 


IHG said that prices for IHG branded hotels on third-party websites were set independently by those websites and that it did not have any control over those prices.


In upholding the complaint, the ASA said: "We were concerned that consumers who booked with IHG instead of taking advantage of a competitor's cheaper offer, on the assumption that they could make use of the best price guarantee to pay the same price, would be disadvantaged if that test booking took place after the room was already booked, and potentially a full day later. 


"Due to the very finite nature of hotel rooms at a specific hotel, by making a booking, consumers would reduce the availability of equivalent rooms and affect the price that rooms were sold at. 


"By having to make the booking through IHG.com, the specific room would be taken off the market, making it more likely that the rate would no longer be available, and where that room was the last one available, it would make the price promise impossible to honour.


"Because the terms of the offer had not been made sufficiently clear, and because the ad implied consumers were guaranteed not to pay more by booking the same hotel room on IHG's website than if they booked it elsewhere, when that was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading.


"We told Intercontinental Hotels Group not to claim or imply that consumers were guaranteed not to pay more by booking the same hotel room on IHG's website than if they booked it elsewhere if that was not the case. We also told them to make sufficiently clear the terms under which they would match the price of an equivalent room."

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