The notice ‘We have only 1 room left!’ on the booking website Booking.com is misleading, according to a decision by the Board of Appeal of the Dutch Advertising Code Committee given on 4 July 2014. Booking.com misleads customers by suggesting that hotel rooms are nearly sold out, while rooms are still available via other channels. The same applies for the notice: ‘Only 1 room left for € [price]’. These notices contravene the Dutch Advertising Code.
Decision of the Board of Appeal
The Board of Appeal of the Dutch Advertising Code Committee has ruled that Booking.com’s promotional texts ‘We have only 1 room left!’ and ‘Only 1 room left at € [price]’ are misleading and in violation of section 7 of the Dutch Advertising Code. Advertiser Booking.com is advised to stop advertising in this manner.
On 24 April 2014 the Dutch Advertising Code Committee already ruled in favour of the party that filed the complaint, marketing expert Max Kohnstamm. Booking.com then appealed that decision. Joost Becker and Eric Janssen, lawyers at the Dirkzwager law firm, represented Kohnstamm in the appeal procedure.
“This is a justified complaint about the ambiguity that Booking.com allows to exist on its website. The Booking.com website gives the impression that the availability of certain hotel rooms, at a specific price, is very limited. This misleads customers into booking quickly,” says Joost Becker.
Eric Janssen says this is all the more the case since Booking.com offers the best price guarantee on its website. “It has already been determined in other European case law that this prevents consumers from looking any further. They think they are looking at the best deal. Although the Board of Appeal did not explicitly include this aspect, it is no more than logical that the Board of Appeal considers the promotional text misleading.” Janssen adds that this decision constitutes important case law for future lawsuits.
Joost Becker, lawyer specialising in Advertising law
Eric Janssen, lawyer specialising in Competition law