Advertisements for coach transfers to London from Stansted Airport were challenged
Low-cost shuttle coach operator Terravision has been found to have produced “misleading” advertisements.
Poster ads for coach transfers to London were displayed in Stansted Airport and included the text “CHEAPEST & FASTEST” or “THE FASTEST”, both of which appeared next to an image of a timer which displayed “00.35.00”. The posters, one of which appeared in panel form on barriers in the airport and the other, which was headlined “YOUR WAY TO LONDON!” and included icons depicting the London landmarks St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, the ‘Gherkin’ and Big Ben, also included the names of the destinations in London the coaches served.
The complainant challenged whether the “FASTEST” claims were misleading and could be substantiated, because he believed the fastest way to reach London from Stansted airport was by train.
Terravision Transport Ltd (Terravision) said they offered three routes from Stansted: direct to London Victoria; to London Liverpool Street via Finsbury Square and Bromley-by-Bow; and to Stratford via Redbridge Station. The operator said the ads were designed to publicise all three services but with a particular focus on the Stratford route, which was new. They said the route offered a journey time during the day of 35 minutes to Redbridge, which was in London’s zone four, and it was therefore factual to advertise that time. They said the entire journey to Stratford took 40 minutes and from Stansted to Liverpool Street and London Victoria it took 75 minutes each. They said they had chosen to include the entire journey times on their website to ensure the information was clear and accessible and the times for intermediary stops could also be located on the timetable for each route. Terravision said the ads did not claim they offered the fastest service to central London, only to London. They believed their competitors’ journey times to London and London Stratford were 47 minutes (at fastest for that provider) and 44 minutes respectively and they were therefore the fastest service to London. In addition, they understood their competitor’s 44-minute journey to London Stratford was available only once per day whereas Terravision’s fastest time to Stratford was 40 minutes and, again, they were therefore the fastest service.
They said the ads clearly related to all three services and highlighted the best selling points of each of them, but did not advertise a journey time of 35 minutes to London Victoria and Liverpool Street. They believed, when viewed in its entirety, it would be clear the time of 35 minutes was not in reference to a particular panel of the poster, of which there were 70. They said the time of 35 minutes appeared next to references to the Stratford service several times in the ad. Terravision said they were also careful not to make any comparisons with their competitors in the ads, which were in line with those of other companies offering similar services (although some advertising for such services made reference to “central London” and therefore clearly differentiated the competitor’s service from the one they were promoting). They submitted timetable data related to their journey times and details of those promoted by their competitors.
Upholding the complaint, the ASA noted the “FASTEST” claims and “00.35.00” were intended to refer to the route between Stansted Airport and London Stratford, which the ASA understood was timetabled to reach Redbridge Station in 35 minutes during the day. The ASA considered, however, given the references to Victoria and Liverpool Street in both ads and the images of central London landmarks and the headline “YOUR WAY TO LONDON!” in the second poster, the claims were likely to be interpreted as meaning Terravision offered the fastest available way to reach central London and that its services would do so in 35 minutes. Because the ASA did not see evidence to demonstrate that was the case, it concluded the ads were misleading.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).