ACM orders Vakantiegarant to stop misleading consumers immediately
The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) orders Vakantiegarant to stop misleading consumers immediately. If Vakantiegarant fails to do so, the company will have to pay a penalty payment of EUR 2,500 per day with a maximum of EUR 125,000. ACM received a lot of reports from consumers about this company through its consumer information portal ConsuWijzer.
Commercial practices of Vakantiegarant
ACM has investigated the commercial practices of Vakantiegarant. The company contacts consumers over the phone, who indicated in online surveys that they were interested in travel. In these calls, consumers are presented an offer of booking a holiday rental for two weeks for EUR 349. Consumers are under the impression that they only consent to receiving further information. After several weeks, they receive a bill of EUR 349. According to Vakantiegarant, they have to pay because they agreed to the offer over the phone, and did not take advantage of the statutory cooling-off period.
What went wrong here?
Companies that offer their services over the phone must comply with the rules that protect consumers. For example, the company must clearly explain the reason for the call, which is to sell a product or a service. In addition, the company must clearly specify what it is selling. It must provide all of the relevant information that the consumer needs in order to be able to make a well-founded decision. At the beginning of the phone calls, Vakantiegarant did not say what the reason was for these calls. Also, the company was completely unclear about the offer that was made. That is why ACM orders the company to stop misleading consumers about the reason for the phone conversation and the offer. In practice, consumers were not able at all to rent the offered holiday rental for the indicated price, but they could ask the company to search for a holiday rental with a 20% discount on the rental price. Consumers just did not know the exact locations of these holiday rentals or the actual prices.
Furthermore, it was unclear what company exactly was behind these practices, since the company was not located at the address that was stated on the website. When entering into an agreement, providers are required to state a geographical address where consumers can go to.
The company has indicated that it has already ceased its operations. ACM will verify this.
Since Vakantiegarant did not comply with the rules, and did not provide consumers with correct information about its products, the company has therefore misled consumers. Consumers who accepted the offer made over the phone did not enter into a legally valid agreement, and are thus not required to pay, even if they are subsequently contacted by a debt collection agency.
Evert Jan Hummelen, acting Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, explains: “Consumers are only bound to an agreement if the provider has complied with the rules. If not, then the agreement is considered not to have been concluded, and consumers are not required to pay.”
Consumers can file complaints with ConsuWijzer, ACM’s consumer information portal. They can also ask for advice if they are bothered by telemarketers, and if they have any other consumer problem.