Monday, 12 April 2010

Confusion Over Double Headed Arrows


Kulula.com is well known as a low cost airline, often offering significantly discounted airfares. In January this year it advertised a sale on airfares with the copy "Fly to these great destinations between 1 February and 25 June 2010". Destinations advertised as "R299 incl. taxes" are listed as:

Jo'burg (O.R Tambo↔ Durbs
Jo'burg (Lanseria) ↔ Durbs
Cape Town ↔ PE
Durbs↔ PE

A consumer complaint was lodged that the advertisement was misleading in terms of Clause 4.2.1 of Section II of the Code of Advertising Practice. It was submitted that the use of the double arrows gives an impression that the advertised price is the cost of a return airfare and not a one way trip, as intended by Kulula.

Kulula's response was that the offer is clearly for a one way fee and that this meaning could be determined from the wording "fly to these great destinations" and not "fly between" or "fly back and forth between". The double arrow merely indicated that the prices are valid on each route, in either direction.

The Directorate considered whether the hypothetical reasonable person would interpret the double arrows to imply that the prices quoted were for a return trip. It took into account Kulula’s reputation as a low cost airline and pointed out that while R299 for a return trip between the destinations advertised would be exceptional, it would not be impossible. It found that the hypothetical reasonable person would construe the arrow to indicate direction.

It was determined that in isolation, the copy “Fly to these great destinations...” may imply that the price was for a one way trip, but in combination with the double arrows creates confusion. The hypothetical reasonable person could reach either conclusion: that the price quoted was for a one way trip, or a return trip. In light of the ambiguity, the complaint was upheld and Kulula was ordered to withdraw the advertisement and not be used again in its current format.

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