The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed a fine on World Ticket Center B.V. (WTC) for displaying its airfares and trip prices on its website incorrectly. WTC failed to include all mandatory costs in the base price of its airfares. Variable costs were not clearly mentioned in the base price, and were only added at a later stage during the booking process. Finally, optional extras such as travel and cancellation insurances were pre-selected. ACM has imposed a fine of EUR 350,000 on WTC. Moreover, ACM forces the company to adjust the information on its website to have it comply with the rules. WTC has already adjusted its website by now.
Anita Vegter, Member of the Board of ACM, adds: “Consumers have the right to be offered transparent prices. With transparent prices, consumers are able to compare prices, and to make well-informed choices. Furthermore, unclear prices disrupt the level playing field, and thus also mutual competition.”
Dealing with unclear travel prices
Since 2013, ACM has been focusing on making prices in the travel industry more transparent. All costs must be presented clearly at the beginning of the booking process. Consumers are then able to compare prices better. The basic principles are:
- It must be possible to book the trip for the advertised price;
- Checkboxes for optional products and services cannot be pre-checked;
- All unavoidable costs must be included in the base price;
- Any variable costs must be mentioned with the advertised price.
In recent months, ACM reminded a large number of companies in the travel industry about the fact that they failed to present their prices correctly. One of these companies was WTC, as it had unclear prices on its website www.worldticketcenter.nl . Mandatory additional costs such as a ‘customer service charge’ that WTC charges its customers when booking online, were not included in the advertised price. Booking costs were not clearly mentioned with the advertised price. Moreover, certain optional extras for trips were pre-selected such as travel and cancellation insurances. ACM thus established that WTC violated the rules on price transparency laid down in the Aviation regulation, and also violated the Dutch Unfair Commercial Practices Act (WHO). WTC has filed an objection against this fining decision.
This fine fits in ACM’s broader strategy towards transparent prices in the travel industry. ACM will continue with this strategy in 2015. As a result of indications submitted by consumers to consumer information portal ConsuWijzer, among other things, ACM will act against travel providers with unclear prices.
More information for consumers
On www.consuwijzer.nl , consumers are able to find clear information (in Dutch) about the rules, and how they can easily compare travel deals.