Spurred by an increasing number of complaints about online travel services across European Consumer centers, the European Commission (EC) and consumer protection authorities are calling on 235 travel-related websites to bring their practices in line with EU consumer legislation or face penalties.
The specific websites are required, among others, to be fully transparent about prices and present their offers in a clear way at an early stage of the booking process.
“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,” said Věra Jourová, commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.
The EC began screening 352 price comparison and travel booking sites across the EU in October last year and found that prices were not reliable on 235 websites, two thirds of the sites inspected .
Key findings included divergent prices on the page in 32.1 percent of the cases compared to those displayed on the booking page; in 30.1 percent of the websites, the total price or the way this was calculated was unclear; 20.7 percent of the sites presented special prices which were not available as advertised; 25.9 percent of the websites gave the impression that certain offers were scarce without specifying that this was only applicable to their site; 22.7 percent provided limited information about their identity while 4 percent did not provide any information; 21.3 percent of the sites presented consumer reviews in an unclear or un-transparent way.