An advert for budget airline Ryanair has been banned by the UK's advertising watchdog after it made misleading and unfair comparisons with online travel agent Lastminute.com. The advert broke rules on truthfulness and comparative advertising.
The ad appeared in the national press, headlined "Robbed by Lastminute.com?" It showed a picture of a burglar with "ONLINE AGENT" written on his top. Lastminute.com complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the ad was misleading and, together with the cartoon robber, "denigrated and discredited" its business.
Ryanair denied the claims. It argued that Lastminute.com was not authorised to sell its flights and that, in selling Ryanair flights, Lastminute.com was in clear breach of the conditions for use of Ryanair.com, which restricts use to "private non-commercial purposes." Ryanair also accused Lastminute.com of inflating the prices without consent and without informing passengers.
The ASA said that Ryanair failed to provide evidence to show that Lastminute.com overcharged customers and had therefore not substantiated the claim "Robbed by Lastminute.com?"
"We concluded that the claim in conjunction with the image of a robber misleadingly and unfairly discredited Lastminute's business," said the ruling, published today.
The ruling did not address Ryanair's argument that its website conditions forbid non-private, commercial use of the site, perhaps deeming that a matter more suitable for resolution by a court.
Lastminute.com also complained that a statement in the ad that said "They overcharge by 100% or more" was misleading. The ASA ruled in Lastminute.com's favour.
Lastminute.com also said that the advert's claim "Don't provide correct terms and conditions" was misleading because Lastminute.com incorporated all their suppliers' terms and conditions into their own terms and conditions, which customers had to agree to before making a purchase.
Lastminute.com's terms and conditions stated:
"... the contract for the product is between you and the supplier. In most cases this will mean that there are additional terms and conditions governing the contract as each supplier will have terms and conditions relating to that product. Please make sure that you have read these terms and conditions before completing your transaction with us."
The ASA wrote: "We considered that the reference to additional terms and conditions made it clear to customers that they should make further checks with the airline." It concluded that the advert's claim was misleading.