Online booking agents are the travel industry’s glue. Without them, it’d be a lot harder to score the discounted airfare that seems to be in abundance right now. But it just might be that some of these travel websites are ripping you off, or at least, lacking in transparency when it comes to price listings.
According to a study conducted by the European Commission, a lot of travel websites are party to a pretty big grifting enterprise. Of the 352 websites surveyed, two-thirds were guilty of tacking on extra price elements in the later stages of booking without informing the customer. But perhaps most jarring of all, the final price of most fares was not the same as the original listed price in one-third of the websites examined. These extra fees often weren’t clearly disclosed, which is why the European Union (EU) is flagging 235 websites for further investigation.
Although largely a problem in the EU, travel website chicanery affects customers around the world. After all, your favorite booking agents -- Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, etc. -- can help you travel around Europe, and you probably aren’t any more privy to cryptic, borderline scams than the next person. An EU spokesperson tells Thrillist that none of the websites embroiled in the controversy have been named at this point.
The EU Commission incorporated a glut of other findings in its report that will likely make you fume: Twenty-five percent of websites gave the impression that certain tickets were “scarce,” when really the scarcity only applied to the website listing the price. Slightly over 30% of websites listed the final price of certain trips unclearly, often bungling the inclusion of taxes and other necessary fees. Twenty percent of websites advertised “special prices” that disappeared when customers navigated to the final booking page. This should all posit a fair bit of alarm if you're banking on a trip to Paris this spring.
Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality at the EU, said of the findings: "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 EU via Travel + Leisure ]