After a difficult festive season dogged by cancellations and delays due to strikes and flooding, as well as rumours of new competitors, Eurostar’s tribulations have continued into the New Year continue with a rap on the knuckles from the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for misleading customers.
Promotional fares were in fact unavailable
The controversy concerns a £39 promotional fare that invited passengers to “Treat yourself to a European getaway from just £39 each way with a summer getaway in August or September”. It was advertised by the international rail firm in July for travel from August 2023, but has now been found by the advertising regulator to have been unavailable for the vast majority of seat bookings.
Eurostar announced in the small print for its special summer deal that it had made 39,000 seats available at the reduced price, a quantity which it later said it believed to be a “significant number”. But after a customer looking for a promotional fare only found one such ticket available, a complaint was made to the advertising standards authority.
A subsequent investigation into the fares provided by the rail firm showed that the promotional prices were in fact only applicable to a “very small” percentage of tickets.
“Very small percentage”
Explaining the decision on the disputed fares, the ASA’s analysis showed that from 12 July 2023:
- 9,500 standard class seats were available on both the outward and return journey at the stated ‘from’ price, for travel between 16 August and 13 December.
- 6,500 seats were available from London to Brussels and Lille.
- and 13,500 seats were available from Brussels and Lille to London.
The regulator said this meant “the £39 fares had made up a very small percentage of the total number of seats available for standard class travel for those routes in the identified timeframe.”
“We therefore considered that Eurostar had not demonstrated that a significant proportion of tickets between London to Paris and Paris to London had been available ‘from’ £39 during the promotional period,” the body ruled.
“We take great care”
A Eurostar spokesperson responded to the ruling with a promise to do better, saying, “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.”