How £249 holiday at Center Parcs had a hidden catch

The ad showed families enjoying a holiday not available outside school terms. Picture: PA
The ad showed families enjoying a holiday not available outside school terms. Picture: PA
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A TELEVISION advert for Center Parcs promoting a family break that was not available during the school holidays has been banned for being misleading.

The advert, for a holiday for a family of four costing £249, failed to specify that the break was only available midweek and not during the school holidays.

The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled the advert cannot not be shown again in its present form. It was found to be in breach of rules regarding misleading advertising, qualification and prices.

The Center Parcs advert, screened in January, showed families taking part in outdoor activities and included a voice-over that asked: “What would you like your children to inherit? A house? A clock? The family silver? Or something a little more valuable?” On-screen text read “4 night breaks from £249 for 4 people” and smaller text read “Subject to availability. Conditions apply. Book by 31 January 2012.”

Center Parcs argued that the company did not believe viewers would have expected to be able to take a family of four – including two children of school age – on holiday at the advertised price.

However its argument that the advertisement was clear was overruled.

An ASA spokesman said: “While we understood that the only four-night breaks available at Center Parcs were midweek, we considered that some viewers would not be aware of that.

“We considered viewers would understand from the ad that the offer would only be available at the ‘from’ price at certain times throughout the year.

“Although we accepted that ‘school holidays’ could not be clearly defined, we noted that the travel dates available when the ad was first broadcast were all in January, February and one date in early March.

“Because the ad focused exclusively on the benefits of the resort for families with young children, we considered that the omission of information about the available travel periods, which would have alerted viewers to the fact that the offer was unlikely to be available during school holidays, was likely to mislead.”

The ASA ruling stated: “The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told Center Parcs to ensure that significant information regarding the availability of their offers was included in future.”

A spokesman for the holiday company said yesterday: “Center Parcs has always adhered to the ASA guidelines and this particular TV ad is no different.

“As with all previous TV ads, it was cleared for transmission by the relevant authorities. At no point were we in any way aiming to mislead the public regarding the pricing of our short breaks. To our knowledge, there was actually only one complaint regarding this ad.

“While we believe this ruling to be harsh, we will of course take on board the ASA’s comments and continue to work within their guidelines.”