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

Five Places to Go for Spring Travel

1. Carlsbad, Calif.

2. Aspen, Colo.

3. Kauai, Hawaii.

4. Cabo San Lucas

5. Washington, D.C.

Source: Forbes

TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=c0a45578-7841-e811-ba59-782bcb66a2f2

Why Is Watching ‘Jane Peel Potatoes’ More Exciting than What You’ve Got to Say?

Sponsored by Travel Planners International.

Video is here to stay and travel agents who embrace it are reaping the rewards. 

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
ASTA Returns to a Greek Revival
ASTA Returns to a Greek Revival

More than 30 years after its last visit to Greece, ASTA returned to a country whose tourism industry is emerging from a devastating economic crisis and seeks to expand visits beyond its iconic island destinations.

Can New Booking Tools Help Level the Lodging Playing Field for Agents?
Can New Booking Tools Help Level the Lodging Playing Field for Agents?

When clients shop for hotels on the internet, a travel agent’s life can become increasingly complicated and their credibility can be called into question. Will new technology help?

What Does Apple Leisure Group and Mark Travel Merger Mean for Agents?
What Does Apple Leisure Group and Mark Travel Merger Mean for Agents?

Concerns include whether fewer channels will hamper competitive pricing, what will happen to some of the travel brands involved, and how service might be affected.

Don’t Overlook Pinterest in Your Social Media Marketing Plan
Don’t Overlook Pinterest in Your Social Media Marketing Plan

If you’re trying to attract female travelers, families and couples planning weddings, you’re missing out if you aren’t on Pinterest.

Patience Is Sometimes Required When Filing Travel Insurance Claims
Patience Is Sometimes Required When Filing Travel Insurance Claims

Consumer advocate helps explain how medical insurance claims are not always paid immediately, and how primary Medicare coverage can delay payments when travelers get sick abroad.

Smart App Offers Canada’s First Travel Insurance on Demand
Smart App Offers Canada’s First Travel Insurance on Demand

Travelers can now customize their travel insurance coverage in real time based on geolocation technology using a smartphone app.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: Luxury Retreats