ACM imposes fine for misleading telemarketing calls involving travel vouchers
The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed a fine of 50,000 euros on the owner of Travelance for misleading and aggressive telemarketing practices with regard to travel vouchers for city trips. The company called consumers supposedly as a ‘thank you’ for completing an online questionnaire. In reality, the aim was to sell vouchers for city trips to consumers. Consumers that had been called were subsequently put under pressure by aggressive debt-collection agencies to pay for something they had not agreed to. In addition, there are no indications that consumers were actually able to book trips through Travelance’s website. ACM received many reports about this company through its consumer information portal ACM ConsuWijzer.
Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, Member of the Board of ACM, explains: “Pressuring consumers into paying for something they haven’t agreed to is considered an aggressive commercial practice. Such practices should never be beneficial to businesses. That’s why we have imposed this fine. When imposing fines, we take into account the seriousness and duration of the violation, but also the company’s turnover and size. Our advice to consumers is: say that you’re not interested, that you don’t want to be called again, and hang up.”
What was the case about?
Travelance sold travel vouchers for city trips through a call center. Consumers that were called were told that this was a ‘thank you’ for having completed a questionnaire online. They were offered a city trip as a reward for filling out the questionnaire. The fact that they did have to pay for these city trips (99 or 149 euros per voucher) was not immediately explained to them. Which cities these trips involved was not mentioned either. Several consumers subsequently received emails with login codes, while others did not receive any information. After a while, Travelance, and also a debt-collection agency, pressured them into paying for purchases they had not agreed to and without having received the relevant information. This is not allowed. These practices occurred between at least July 2020 and mid-February 2021. The company claims it has since stopped with these commercial practices.
Misleading and aggressive commercial practices are prohibited
Businesses are not allowed to mislead consumers when selling products or services. It is also prohibited to pressure consumers into paying for purchases they did not agree to. ACM takes action against businesses that use aggressive or misleading commercial practices, as they harm consumer confidence. Moreover, on 1 July 2021, stricter rules came into effect for telemarketing companies that wish to sell something to consumers. Such companies can only call consumers that have explicitly agreed to such calls or that had until recently been customers with the company for that particular product.
The company still has the opportunity to file an objection against ACM’s decision.