More than 200 travel websites have been slammed by the European Union for not delivering accurate information about prices, availability and special offers.
EU consumer watchdogs say the online travel agents, which show bargain prices for flights, accommodation and other travel services, are failing customers on a number of levels, the most significant of which relates to the discrepancy between an initial price for a service and its final cost.
Examining 352 websites across 28 European countries, including price comparison sites, the Consumer Protection Cooperation body said the 235 misleading OTAs would be required to correct their problems or face prosecution, the BBC reported.
“These websites are misleading consumers,” EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vera Jourova said.
“The companies concerned need to respect the European consumer rules, just like a travel agent would.”
Among its revelations, the investigation found:
- A difference between an original price and final cost in a third of cases
- Promotional offers that weren’t available in a fifth of cases
- Unclear total price breakdowns in a third of cases
- Misleading prompts over availability in a quarter of cases, where OTAs would only show scarcity of deals (eg ‘only two left’) for their websites
The report also found that over one in five sites presented customer reviews unclearly, which threw into doubt the credibility of the feedback.