Online Booking Site Prices Are Not Reliable, EU Finds After Broad Study

by Cheryl Rosen
Online Booking Site Prices Are Not Reliable, EU Finds After Broad Study


“Consumers are encountering a growing number of problems with online travel services and these services are now among the most frequent consumer complaints, according to the European Consumer Centres,” says a study published last week by the European Commission.

Online sites “need to respect the European consumer rules, just like a travel agent would,” the study admonished, and the EU promises to “require the websites to solve these issues."

The European Commission and EU consumer protection authorities screened 352 price comparison and travel booking websites across the EU in October 2016 for the study, which is called “Booking your holidays online: Commission and consumer protection authorities act on misleading travel booking websites.”

It found that “prices were not reliable” on 235 websites—fully two-thirds of the total—as online travel agencies (OTAs) added price elements at a late stage of the booking process without clearly informing consumers, and offered promotional prices that often did not correspond with any available service.

EU authorities “have asked the websites concerned to bring their practices in line with EU consumer legislation, which requires them to be fully transparent about prices, and present their offers in a clear way, at an early stage of the booking process,” the study said.

Vera 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. Consumer authorities will now require the websites to solve these issues. Consumers deserve the same protection online as offline."

The numbers
The report found that the online sites had many errors and omissions when it came to pricing travel. In one third of the cases (32.1%), the price first shown was simply not the same as the final price when it came time to book. In 20.7% of the cases, promotional offers were not really available. In 30.1% of the cases the total price or the way it was calculated was not clear. And in one in four cases (25.9%), websites did not specify that statements about scarcity (such as "only two left") applied only to their own website and not to the full inventory.

When it came to user reviews, 21.3% of the websites “presented consumer reviews in an unclear or un-transparent way (and/or included elements that could question their truthfulness)” and when it came to comparing options, 10.5% of the websites did not provide material information that was important for the comparison.      

(Editor’s Note: Over a long career in journalism, I have often been on websites for freelance writers—and have often seen offers to pay writers for 100 or 200 “positive reviews” of an online product or service.)

  0
  0
Tip of the Day
Daily Top List

Best Travel Destinations Within 5 Hours of NY

1. Bermuda

2. Iceland

3. Miami

4. Austin

5. Tulum

Source: Business Insider

TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=5c08d99e-83d0-e811-ba59-782bcb66a2f2

Taking the Advice of Experts and Cruising New Zealand

Visits to the unspoiled islands and flawless natural wonders of New Zealand make this journey one your clients will never forget.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
Have Consumer Direct Hotel Programs Peaked?
Have Consumer Direct Hotel Programs Peaked?

A recent leading consumer travel study shows that direct hotel bookings may have plateaued in 2017 — good news for travel advisors.

Travel Agent ‘Comeback’ Continues to Confound the Public
Travel Agent ‘Comeback’ Continues to Confound the Public

The so-called revival of travel advisors was a focus of attention during a panel discussion at the Skift Global Forum – and the source for some humble pie.

Can This Destination Wedding Be Saved?
Can This Destination Wedding Be Saved?

What if someone planned a destination wedding, and barely anyone wanted to show up? Travel agents offer advice on how to avoid the ultimate nuptial nightmare.

Cutting Through the Perplexity: Eight Critical Items for New Travel Advisor Businesses
Cutting Through the Perplexity: Eight Critical Items for New Travel Advisor Businesses

Industry expert gives guidance about legal issues including disclosures, insurance, copyright laws, business continuity planning, and employee vetting.

ASTA Urges Support Against Pennsylvania Tax Bill
ASTA Urges Support Against Pennsylvania Tax Bill

The bill is aimed at large, out-of-state online agencies, but its new hotel tax will detrimentally impact traditional brick-and-mortar travel advisors.

Four Travel Agents Shake Up Their Business Models for 2019
Four Travel Agents Shake Up Their Business Models for 2019

Whether it’s reconsidering brick-and-mortar, looking for new ways to retain talent, or reaching out to ‘social influencers,’ it’s always a good time to consider innovation.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: Tauck