x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Emirates rapped over South Africa advertising

Emirates advert aimed at consumers in South Africa is banned for making "misleading" claims.

An Emirates Airline advertisement in South Africa promising free holidays for children sounded too good to be true and, it seems, it was.

The Dubai airline has been rapped for false advertising in South Africa, where it ran an online promotion that was ruled to be misleading.

The airline has admitted the mistake, withdrawn the advert and apologised.

An Emirates internet advertisement in the country promised that "two kids under 16 fly, stay, eat and play for free in Dubai" when parents paid to fly with the airline.

But the ad has been banned by South Africa's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), after a customer complained that it was misleading.

The complainant said that he took up the offer, paying 32,400 South African rand (Dh17,374) for a holiday booked through a travel agent.

However, after booking, he found that purchasing individual tickets for his wife and two children would have cost 400 rand less.

The ASA judged the Emirates promotion to be misleading, because children would not benefit from "free" holidays under the terms of the offer. Rather, a holiday booked under the promotion was more expensive.

Under ASA rules, advertisers are not permitted to "recoup the cost of a 'free' item by simply inflating the cost of another purchased item".

The authority said the ad broke that rule, and included statements "likely to mislead the consumer".

"A reasonable expectation would be that the complainant should only pay for his and his partner's tickets and his children would travel for free and also receive free accommodation once in Dubai," the ASA said.

"From the communication at hand, it however appears that the respondent did not honour this deal," it added in a ruling posted on its website.

Emirates did not respond to an approach over the matter made by the ASA, the authority said.

However, a spokeswoman for the airline acknowledged that the advertisement was misleading.

"Emirates strives to apply the very highest standards of integrity and transparency across all of our advertising. In this isolated case, we fully accepted the ruling of the ASA and all pertainable advertising was immediately revoked," said the spokeswoman. "We sincerely apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused."

Advertising standards groups such as the ASA aim to protect consumers from false advertising and misleading claims. They are active in several markets including the UK and South Africa.

While there is no such association active in the UAE, industry groups are trying to develop a set of guidelines for best practices.

The Advertisers Business Group, a membership-based organisation of key advertisers, said recently it was helping to establish a voluntary code of conduct for the advertising industry in the Gulf region.

bflanagan@thenational.ae