Eurostar has received a scolding from the UK’s advertising watchdog after misleading passengers over the price of ticket fares on routes to and from London.
In a statement, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) accused Eurostar International of falsely representing the number of ticket fares on offer at an advertised price of £39.
A promotional email to customers from the Channel Tunnel’s high-speed operator invited passengers to “treat yourself to a European getaway … from just £39 each way.”
The email noted holidaymakers should “make the most of the long days and sunny rays with a summer getaway in August or September. Book now to grab a bargain to Paris, Brussels or Lille,” including a link underneath labelled “low fare finder.”
Eurostar International claimed a total of 39,000 seats were available at the advertised rate across the routes mentioned. The operator believed the terms and conditions of the promotion were “prominently displayed directly underneath the main copy of the ad,” and that the advertised “from” price had not been exaggerated.
But the ASA said today it had upheld a complaint from a consumer, who argued they could only find one seat from London to Paris at the advertised £39 price.
The body ruled Eurostar International Ltd must “ensure that when using ‘from’ price claims in future, a “significant proportion” of fares must be available at the “advertised price.”
Despite Eurostar’s promotion stating there were 9,500 standard class seats between London and Paris, the ASA’s investigation found the number of £39 fares made up a “very small percentage of available tickets for travel” on the route.
Eurostar has the capacity for nearly 900 passengers on its 16-carriage trains and has been running 12 trains per day between London and Paris, suggesting the operator has scope to sell over 300,000 standard, business and first class tickets available per month.
The ASA also reviewed the number of seats available on the two other promoted routes, including Brussels and Lille to London. It came to the same verdict, following data provided by Eurostar.
The ASA therefore concluded that the claim “treat yourself to a European getaway from just £39 each away… with a summer getaway in August or September,” was misleading and breached codes of conduct pertaining to spurious advertising.
It comes after a troubled month for the high-speed operator. Shock strikes at the Channel Tunnel battered travellers just days before Christmas, halting Eurotunnel services for an afternoon.
Rain and flooding then led to the cancellation of Eurostar services to London, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, disrupting thousands of New Year plans on Saturday 28 December.
The beleaguered operator is already being forced to cancel trains from Amsterdam to London for at least six months next year due to engineering works at the Dutch capital’s Centraal Station.
A spokesperson for Eurostar said: “We value customer feedback, including complaints and take great care in the way that we word our advertising and the number of tickets that we offer at the promotional price during particular time periods.”
“We understand and take on board the ASA’s ruling which is related to seat availability in part of the promotional period, and we are committed to ensuring that this scenario does not occur again.”