Much online cheating with airfares and hotel prices revealed

Difi Online shopping in NorwayOnline shopping in Norway. Photo: Norway Today Media.

A great deal of price cheating has been revealed by a European supervision team of tourism intermediaries. ‘Best price is not always best’, said Consumer Agent, Elisabeth Lier Haugseth.

The new report shows that in one third of cases, the price which the customer first saw will not be the final price tag, and one of five promotional offers were not available.

Customers are also fooled into thinking that there are only a few vacant rooms left, whereas in reality there are more ,the only difference being that they are available on other websites.

‘You cannot deliberately give the impression that hotel accommodation costs less than it actually does. The promotional price should be the total price, including all expenses you will have to pay’, stressed Lier Haugseth.
When it comes to flight tickets, flights are often shown as being super cheap online.

‘But then we see that the customer incurred new costs, which may include seat fees, baggage fees etc. Once you’ve made the order, you then see that you’ve got a totally different price than the one originally promoted’, said Lier Haugseth, adding that ‘once you’ve put through an order, the website won’t allow you to start again’.

She also said that comparison sites can be confusing, because they do not reflect all additional expenses that can suddenly run on. It is no wonder that people get mixed up’, said Lier Haugseth.

She is also concerned that people may be fooled by user reviews of hotels.

‘One must be aware that a user review does not give the complete picture of a hotel or a supplier. Not all the negatives reviews come up, or reviews may be edited, and we have audit sets that show user reviews often appear better than they really are’, she said.

Consumers must check the information more closely is the message.

‘Check from several sources, make reservations, and please call the hotel itself to get direct information, and ask follow-up questions’, she said.

‘Also check the conditions of payment. Can you cancel the hotel room, or will you have to pay anyway? It is also important that consumers ask themselves the most important question, is it the absolute lowest price that is the best holiday, or are there other elements, such as flexibility?’

Lier Haugseth said travel and price comparisons top the statistical list of consumer complaints in Europe.

‘Therefore, consumer authorities, and the EU Commission, took the initiative for joint European supervision of this type of service. The Consumer Ombudsman in Norway and Iceland, as well as the authorities of the 26 EU countries, checked a total of 352 travel purveyors online.

Their conclusion was that a lot needs to be corrected.

‘We will now consult with the travel and hotel providers and ask them to correct the shortcomings.

Then we’ll follow up to confirm that they’ve actually done something about the problem.

If the requirements list is not followed, the consumer authorities can both impose a legal requirement for them to make the changes, and ultimately warn consumers against certain companies.

But we believe that the travel and holiday companies concerned are interested in satisfied customers, and also wish for the customers to have confidence in the market’, said Lier Haugseth.


Source: NTB scanpix / Norway Today