You may be aware of the handful of blog posts I’ve written about Scotrail’s Caledonian Sleeper service between various Scottish stations and London; and in particular the posts about the bargain berths. These are the cheap – supposedly as little as £19 – fares you can get for berths on the sleeper, meaning you can get a good night’s sleep and an eleven hour journey almost the length of the UK for less than the price of a good night out.
To cut a long story short, a major tone of my posts has been the rather infuriating difficulty with which one can grasp ahold of these limited and blink-and-they’ve-been-snapped-up bargain berths. The most recent post documented my frustration at Scotrail removing the ability to search purely for bargain berths and bunging them in amongst the morass of general price tickets on their website, a search facility known as the “mixing deck”. Basically, it means it’s now even more difficult to catch the bargain berths, never mind the often-advertised £19 fares.
I’m not the only one to be frustrated, as the (at the last count) 63 comments on the post testify. It’s worth at least skim-reading them because it shows the range of comments from people who have searched in vain for these elusive £19 tickets. The comments have become quite a place for sharing anger and frustration at this, so much so it is in danger of becoming something of a community. I feel I ought to host a party for all the contributors in five years time or something.
Anyway. In amongst the tide of comments are a few from someone called Lou, who has wondered about whether there is a breach of advertising rules by claiming that there are £19 while hardly ever delivering on that claim. Lou has taken it as far as complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority, the UK’s advertising regulator, and – again, to cut a long story short – won an early resolution, though remains unhappy with the outcome.
As Lou’s most recent comment on that previous post explains:
“The ASA are satisfied with just the wording change and do not feel they NEED to create the website and are trying to close the case. I am arguing with them on that at the moment. The ASA seem to be hung up on the fact that Bargain Berths are a limited offer. My response is that is not the issue, it is a given that they are limited. The basis of my complaint is they are advertising tickets that are effectively impossible to find and purchase since they closed the Bargain Berths website and integrated it into the awful “Mixing Deck”.”
If you share Lou’s frustration, as I do, it’s well worth complaining to the ASA about their inadequate response to the situation. You can make a complaint to the ASA via this page, and the ruling to refer to is here.
As ever, I’m grateful for feedback or any reports people have of responses to their communications.
Update (January 2014): Lou has just commented again, below, to say that ASA have replied with a further judgement on the matter. It seems that not everything has changed as complainers might have liked, but at least there is no major discrepancy between what is being promised and what is being delivered. The Bargain Berths are still hard to find, but nobody’s promising otherwise. Well done Lou.