Booking.com falls foul of advertising watchdogs – again

Bed bank Booking.com has fallen foul of advertising watchdogs for the second time in less than five months, this time for making false claims about how much customers could save if they booked through the site.

29509_Booking.com_Booking.com admitted that a claim it made on a display ad on a weather forecast website promising a saving of £1,372 for three nights in the Park Hyatt Hotel in Sydney  for customers who clicked through to its site to book was a mistake.

It blamed the error on a bug in a system run by a third-party, saying that the minimum rate and maximum rate used to calculate the savings were not for the same room.

The error had resulted in an exaggerated savings claim. Booking.com said they had contacted the third-party company and requested that they immediately fix the bug to ensure such errors would not occur in future.

However, after asking Booking.com to explain how it calculated savings the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that even if the price difference had been correctly calculated, the advert would still have been misleading.

Booking.com explained that it stored information from customers who searched its site for hotel accommodation, then targeted them with ads when they visited other websites.

In this instance, the customer had searched Booking.com for prices for the Park Hyatt for January 21 to 23, but the ad that appeared when they were browsing another website based the saving on how much they would save it they chose to stay on a different date within a 30-day window.

The ASA ruled that claim was misleading, saying: “The price comparison did not constitute a genuine savings claim, because the “save £X amount” claim did not reference an alternative price at which the room was available to consumers on the dates during which they wished to stay at the hotel, either through other providers or as a discount on Booking.com’s own price for the room during those dates.

“Instead, the savings claim was based on a price the consumer might pay if they chose to book the room at some other point in the surrounding 30 days.

“We considered that even if the particular savings claim stated in the ad had been calculated correctly based on Booking.com’s comparison window system, it would not have related to the specific product/service featured in the marketing communication (the hotel, room type, booking conditions and dates of stay), but rather to a different product/service (the same hotel, room type and booking conditions, but different dates of stay), which constituted a breach of Code rule 3.17.

“We concluded the savings claim stated in the internet display ad was misleading to consumers.”

The ASA told Booking.com it must not make savings claims that were not genuine.

Following an earlier complaint to the ASA in December 2012, Booking.com admitted that it couldn’t guarantee its advertised hotel rates were 100% accurate due to the amount of data it needed to update regularly.

At the time, the ASA upheld the complaint and ordered Booking.com to ensure rooms were available at advertised prices.

Source