Consumer protectionEU Sweeps identify misleading online portals for travel services

Within the framework of the annual sector-specific review of websites ("Sweeps"), the European Commission and consumer protection authorities launched a coordinated investigation of 352 travel comparison and booking portals in October 2016. 235 of the examined websites showed irregularities and contained misleading content.

These are the important insights to online travel portals:

  • Binding and transparent prices: In one third of the portals investigated, the price shown at first did not correspond to the actual final price. In a similarly high number of cases, the total price or the manner of price calculation was not comprehensible.
  • Bait offers: In 20 percent of the cases, advertized promotions were not actually available to consumers.
  • Availability: In one of four cases, it was not pointed out on the websites that statements about scarce availability (i.e. "only 2 available" or "only available today") were strictly related to their own website. That is, the last room as marketed on the respective website is not necessarily the last available cheap room in a hotel.

Subsequently, the Consumer Protection Network (CPC) will contact the operators of the sites with misleading content and will call for the elimination of irregularities. Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, noted: "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. Consumers deserve the same protection online as offline."

Source: European Commission

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