Travel booking and price comparison sites are ‘misleading’ customers with inaccurate information, the European Commission has said.
An investigation by the Commission and EU Consumer Protection (CPC) watchdog found 235 of 352 checked sites were “not reliable on prices”.
It found that additional price elements were added at a late stage of the booking process without clearly informing the consumer. Also promotional prices aren’t available when people ‘click-to-buy’.
The Commission has warned sites must “bring their practices in line” with EU legislation, which requires transparency over prices.
Vera Jourova, 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,” she said.
- In one third of cases the first price shown was not the same as the final price to pay.
- In one fifth of cases promotional offers were not really available.
- In nearly one third of cases the way the total price was calculated was not clear.
- In one quarter of cases prompts on scarcity (eg "only 2 left") only applied to availability on that particularly website, which wasn't made clear.
The CPC screened the sector in October 2016, covering 28 European countries. It checked a total of 352 sites, including ones offering to book accommodation, transport tickets and car rental. Some were price comparison websites.
Sign up to BBT’s twice-weekly newsletter