The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) sees that tour operators too often still use unclear prices. Tour operators that offer accommodations or trips must include in all of their prices all additional costs that they charge. Over the past few months, ACM has checked the websites of various tour operators. That check has revealed that the advertised price often does not mention or include the additional costs. In addition, such costs are not clearly presented on the website. As a result thereof, consumers often end up paying dozens of euros more than the advertised price. Presenting the additional costs behind the ‘i’- symbol is not sufficiently clear to consumers. Consumers are entitled to fair and clear prices, enabling them to compare different offers properly. That is why ACM launches investigations into misleading prices in the travel industry, starting with providers of holiday park accommodations.
Edwin van Houten, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, explains: “To consumers that book accommodations or trips, prices must be clear straight away. Consumers cannot be confronted with all kinds of additional costs only during the booking process. Such costs must be clear right from the start. Only with clear prices will consumers be able to compare different offers. That will also create a level playing field for all providers.”
All additional costs must be clear straight away
When comparing and making choices, price is an important aspect for consumers. Tour operators must use fair and clear prices. This means that any additional costs must be clear from the start. This applies to, for example, reservation fees, cleaning fees or any bed linen that you are required to pay for. If such costs are clearly explained from the start, consumers will then be able to take those costs into account in their decision-making process.
Presenting prices properly
In the travel industry, it is common to present additional costs behind the ‘í’-symbol. Studies have shown that this practice is not sufficiently clear to consumers. In reality, consumers hardly click on the ‘i’-symbol, which means that, in practice, that information is not read. ACM thus sees the use of the ‘i’-symbol as non-transparent. Alternatively, presenting full prices is one way to present prices properly. This can be easily done by having consumers, when visiting the provider’s website, enter information such as the number of travelers, dates, and the duration of the trip, and then adjust the price accordingly.
Enforcing compliance with the rules
Over the next few months, ACM will check how tour operators present their prices. Starting in April, ACM will check providers of holiday park accommodations. At a later point in time, ACM will start checking other tour operators.
ACM predominantly looks at the way in which additional costs are presented:
- Consumers must be given insight into all additional costs right from the start;
- Presenting additional costs behind the ‘i’-symbol is not allowed;
- Tour operators that wish to find out, together with ACM, how they can present prices on their websites better, for example, through A/B testing, are invited to contact ACM by sending an email to effectievetransparantie [at] acm [punt] nl.
ACM may impose sanctions on tour operators that do not present their prices properly.