The first round of rulings published by the Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA") in 2024 included an upheld ruling against Eurostar International Ltd ("Eurostar"). 

Eurostar, popular for its high-speed London to Paris rail service, ran a prize promotion which came to the attention of the ASA. 

The ad 

The ad in question was in the form of an email, received by the complainant on 15 July 2023. Its subject was “Soak up every second of summer.” The email body invited the readers to “TREAT YOURSELF TO A EUROPEAN GETAWAY … FROM JUST £39 EACH WAY*”. Readers were enticed "… with a summer getaway in August or September” with a “bargain to Paris, Brussels or Lille." The ASA launched an investigation following a complaint from a member of the public who challenged whether the ad was misleading, because they only found one ticket at the advertised price. 

Mind the gap

Eurostar said there were 39,000 seats available at the advertised “from” price in total, which they considered a “significant” number. They added that the availability of seats available at the “from” price was not exaggerated, because the terms and conditions of the promotion, which were properly displayed within the ad, clearly stated the number of seats available. 

From 12 July 2023 onwards (three days before the complainant received the ad), there were fewer tickets available at the promotional price due to a significant number being sold. As such, Eurostar considered consumers to expect a smaller number of seats available at the advertised “from” price - particularly given that Eurostar made it clear that such seats are subject to availability.  

Stand back from the edge

The ASA was not happy with this explanation and found the ad to be in breach of CAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), and 3.17 and 3.22 (Prices).

The ASA considered that a consumer would understand Eurostar's claim to mean that there are a significant number of fares to Paris, Brussels or Lille available to purchase at £39 throughout August and September. They also considered that consumers would expect to find tickets for £39 across a range of dates and times.  Unhelpfully, it is not clear from the ruling what percentage of seats were available at the stated price, but the ASA concluded that the number was not enough to constitute a significant proportion of the total number of seats available across the range of routes and timeframes on offer.

Please take all of your belongings with you

It isn't enough to have a seemingly large number of items available at the stated price or maximum discount claimed in an ad, that number has to represent a significant proportion. If the campaign is a success and most of those cheapest seats/items sell out, then the campaign should cease or be updated, to ensure consumers are not misled into thinking a ‘significant proportion’ of seats/items remain available at that price.