European commission and consumer protection authorities have said they will act on ‘misleading travel booking websites’ after stating that a joint study found that 235 such websites had prices that were ‘not reliable’. Lead by the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) network, the study screened 352 price comparison and travel booking websites across the European Union in October 2016. Of these, nearly two-thirds, said the CPC, contained unreliable prices. For example, additional price elements were added at a late stage of the booking process without clearly informing the consumer, or promotional prices did not correspond to any available service, said the CPC.
The screening also found: in a third of cases, the price on the page of the comparison list was not the same as the price ultimately displayed in the booking page; a quarter of the websites gave the impression that certain offers were scarce (e.g. ‘only 2 left’, ‘only available today’) without specifying that this scarcity applied strictly to their own website; 20 per cent of the websites presented special prices, which were not then available as advertised through the actual booking page.
Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: “The Internet provides consumers with plenty of information to prepare, compare and book their holidays. However, if the reviews on comparison websites are biased or prices are not transparent, these websites are misleading consumers. The companies concerned need to respect the European consumer rules, just like a travel agent would.”