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ACM: prices must be presented more clearly for package tours

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has urged the largest providers of package tours to consumers to present their prices more clearly. ACM has conducted previously announced checks on 12 package tour providers and concluded that 11 businesses did not present the mandatory additional costs in a correct manner. In addition, consumers regularly could not book package tours for the prices that were presented initially on the websites. ACM now gives businesses a period of 8 weeks to get their affairs in order. If they do not present their prices more clearly, or if they insufficiently do this, ACM will consider imposing sanctions.

Edwin van Houten, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, explains: “Price is one of the most important criteria for consumers while making purchase decisions. Prices that are clear and include all of the mandatory costs enable consumers to compare different travel offers properly. We want to prevent consumers being confronted with unexpected costs at the end of the booking process or even at their travel destination. We expect that all market participants present their prices including all mandatory costs and that their offer is bookable for the presented price. It is now up to the travel industry to show that they take their customers seriously on this issue.”

Basic principles for prices in the travel industry

ACM has sent all 12 package tour providers a letter containing their results, what must be changed (if anything), and once again an overview of the main rules for correct and clear prices:

  • Local or variable costs that only become known when all variables are filled out (for example, the travel date or the size of the travel party) must instantly be presented along with the total price, clearly visible in one extra line and in one amount. The costs may not be hidden under the ‘i’-symbol and must be presented in the same way as the price;
  • As soon as all variables of the trip are known, all mandatory additional costs, including the costs that will be charged locally, must be included in the price;
  • At the moment the consumer is going to book the trip, the total amount of the trip price with all elements must be presented. In that context, the amount that must be paid immediately may be distinguished from the amount that will be charged on site;
  • The presented price with which the consumer is invited to click on the offer must be sufficiently available and bookable (so no prices may be presented just to lure consumers in).

Recent investigations into presentation of prices in the travel industry

In 2022, ACM again launched investigations into the way prices are presented in the travel industry. Consumers are entitled to fair and clear prices, enabling them to compare different offers properly. Behavioral research has shown that consumers want to know the total cost at the start of the booking process. In 2022, ACM also confronted holiday villa rental providers about their presentation of prices. These providers have subsequently adjusted their presentation and now present their prices including the mandatory additional costs.

Currently, ACM is investigating the presentation of package tour prices. These are trips that contain two or more different elements, such as accommodation and transport. ACM has checked the websites of 12 large package tour providers and found shortcomings on the websites of 11 providers, such as not clearly presenting the mandatory additional costs. There are also some providers that offer prices that change during the booking process, resulting in the inability to book the trip for the previously presented price.

The law is clear about this. All costs of a purchase must be presented clearly and unambiguously. If this does not happen, it constitutes a misleading commercial practice. ACM can then take enforcement action. The package tour providers now have a final time period in which to adjust their presentation of prices.

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