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07th Apr 2017

If you’re booking holidays this year, you should be wary of these online scams

Alan Loughnane

Buyer beware…

We’re inching towards the summer so you may be thinking of making some travel plans during the fine weather, but according to European consumer protection authorities, you need to be careful.

Websites which are showing prices for flights, hotels and other travel arrangements are not giving customers accurate information.

The European Commission and EU consumer protection authorities launched a coordinated screening of 352 price comparison and travel booking websites across the EU in October 2016.

It found that prices were not reliable on 235 websites, that’s two thirds of the websites checked.

For example, additional price elements were added at a late stage of the booking process without clearly informing the consumer.

“These websites are misleading consumers,” said EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourova.

“The companies concerned need to respect the European consumer rules, just like a travel agent would,” she said. “Consumers deserve the same protection online as offline.”

Key findings from the screening

  • What you believe you’ll pay, is it what you will actually pay? In one third of the cases, the price first shown is not the same as the final price.
  • Is it an offer or is it just bait? In one fifth of the cases, promotional offers were not really available.
  • Puzzled mind or puzzled price? In almost one third of the cases, the total price or the way it was calculated was not clear.
  • Last cheap room in the hotel or simply last promoted room on that website? In one in four cases, websites did not specify that statements about scarcity (e.g. “only 2 left”, “only available today”) applied strictly to their own website.

The CPC authorities of 28 countries (26 EU countries, Norway and Iceland) checked a total 352 websites comparing offers and prices, mainly in the travel sector.

It also found that 21.3% of the websites presented consumer reviews in an unclear or un-transparent way, this led to doubts over their truthfulness.