Travel booking websites under fire for misleading consumers on prices

 Travel websites that advertise rock bottom deals for flights and hotel bookings are not giving customers ‘accurate’ information.

A European Commission report on online travel booking says two-thirds of the websites screened displayed misleading prices. Of the 352 price comparison and travel booking websites checked in October 2016, the Commission found 235 gave prices that were not reliable.

The scrutiny of the websites, conducted in collaboration with consumer protection authorities, found that in a third of cases, the final price was not the same as the first price shown. In a fifth of the cases, promotional prices were not available at all.

Additionally, in a third of cases, the final price or the way it was calculated was not clear. In a quarter of instances, websites did not make it clear that room availability applied just to that site, and rooms might be available through other channels.

EU Commissioner Věra Jourová 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 Commission said the 235 websites will have to correct the irregularities and it will ensure sites comply through national enforcement procedures.

The report raises doubt about travel websites as a cheaper alternative to buying tickets directly from travel agents. The debate on whether online booking is cheaper than patronizing agents has been raging for years and the EU report proves that agents could be more transparent on prices.

If you’re hunting for the best deal possible, the smartest thing to do is compare prices offer by websites and travel agents, say experts.

Sola Jolaoso

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