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BizReport : Law & Regulation : April 11, 2017

EU 'sweep' finds issue with 66% of travel booking, price comparison websites

A coordinated screening of hundreds of travel booking and price comparison websites across the European Union reveals that two-thirds provided prices that were not reliable.

by Helen Leggatt

The screening was coordinated by the European Commission and EU consumer protection authorities and involved 352 travel booking and price comparison websites. Prices were found to be unreliable on 235 websites with issues such as promotional prices not corresponding to any available flight or accommodation and a lack of clear information about additional costs.

One in four of the websites screened failed to disclose that inventory statements, such as "just one room left", related to their own inventory and not that of the hotel/accommodation.

In what the report summary dubs, "Is it an offer or is it just bait?" 21% of the websites provided "special prices" that were "not really available". One in five contained reviews that could be considered questionable, unclear or lacking in transparency.

"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," said Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.

"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 EU conducts 'sweeps' to ensure consumer protection law is being respected. Previous sweeps have involved airlines (2007), mobile content (2008), electronic goods (2009), online tickets (2010), consumer credit (2011), digital contents (2012), travel services (2013), guarantees on electronic goods (2014) and consumer rights directive (2015).

Tags: consumer protection, EU, law, travel, website

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