ASA: On The Beach Ltd
A poster for Onthebeach.co.uk, seen on 18 January 2018, included text which stated “92% of our customers say they saved money booking their holiday with us*”.
Smaller text at the bottom of the poster said “*Based on a survey of 37,439 customers between 14/07/2016 and 30/08/2017″.
The Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Statistics challenged whether the claim “92% of our customers say they saved money booking their holiday with us” was misleading and could be substantiated.
On The Beach Ltd said the information was gathered between the 14 July 2016 and 30 August 2017 and that the survey was carried out over questionnaires provided to their customers. They said that survey had been sent to over 300,000 customers and that they had received 37,439 responses. They provided a copy of the questionnaire which asked consumers what type of holiday they had booked, how much money they had saved and their age.
The complaint was upheld. The ASA considered that consumers would interpret the headline claim to mean that 92% of all of On The Beach’s customers who were surveyed saved money on a specific holiday compared to purchasing it from another provider and that they therefore would also likely make a saving. The ASA also considered that the headline claim would be understood in the context of the small print and that consumers would consider that the claim “92% of our customers” meant 92% of 37,439 customers surveyed between 14 July 2016 and 30 August 2017.
The ASA understood from the survey that On The Beach had asked consumers, that when they had recently booked a holiday with them, how much money they considered they had saved by booking with them. Consumers were prompted to choose from a list referencing a range of savings which started with “I didn’t save anything” and at the top of the range, “Saved over £500”. The form also asked consumers to indicate the type of holiday they had booked based on four options. The ASA noted that consumers were not asked to give any specific details about the holiday they had booked and whether the money they had saved was based on an identical holiday from a different company or a similar type of holiday.
The ASA noted that the survey only asked two generic questions about the holiday: its type based on four pre-set categories; and the amount saved which was given in a range (i.e. saved between £100 and £199). The ASA considered that the question was phrased ambiguously and therefore it was not clear that all the survey respondents would have reported their savings on the same basis. The survey did not require consumers to provide any specific information about the basis of their savings, for example, they did not have to state if the money they saved was against exactly the same holiday or how much it had been sold at by a different provider. Further, the ASA considered that the savings question, “When you booked with On the Beach recently, how much money would you say you saved by booking with us?” was phrased in a leading manner, and that could have led survey respondents to assume that they had saved money when they perhaps did not know.
The ASA also understood from the data that the number of customers who received the survey was much higher than the number stated in the ad and that the 92% claim in the ad was based on the 37,439 people who had responded to the survey. The ASA considered that it was likely that a proportion of the consumers who did not respond to the survey had not or were not aware if they had saved money when booking their holiday through On The Beach. The ASA therefore considered that the claim in the ad was misleading because the percentage of the total number of consumers surveyed who had saved money was likely to be much lower than the 92% stated in the ad.
The ASA considered that the methodology used to conduct the survey was not robust as it did not require consumers to provide any detail of the saving they made and the survey was insufficiently detailed to substantiate a savings claim. The ASA therefore concluded that the ad was misleading and in breach of the Code.
(Source: ASA, 18 July 2018)