June 22, 2017: The District Court of Rotterdam has ruled on appeal in this case. For the complete text of that ruling (in Dutch), please refer to this page.
The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has fined Dutch tour operator Corendon for incorrectly displaying prices on its website. The company displayed the prices of trips and individual airline tickets incorrectly because it had failed to list all additional costs directly with the advertised price. These costs were only added to the price later in the booking process. ACM has therefore imposed fines on Corendon International Travel B.V., totaling EUR 350,000. Anita Vegter, Member of the Board of ACM, explains: “Consumers must be able to make their purchasing decisions on the basis of the actual costs. Tour operators must be clear about their prices, so that consumers are able to compare different offers. We had already reminded tour operators of this obligation before. We have now decided to take enforcement actions against providers that have misled consumers with non-transparent prices.”
Transparent prices in the travel industry
Clear prices in the travel industry have been one of ACM’s key priorities for quite some time now. The starting point is that all fixed unavoidable costs must be included in the advertised price from the start. All variable, unavoidable costs must be listed directly with the advertised price. These cannot be displayed at the bottom of the page or hidden away in the small print. One example of variable costs is charging additional costs per booking, while the price of the trip is calculated per person.
Between August 2015 and February 2016, Corendon failed to inform consumers correctly about the additional variable costs when they booked tour packages or flights. With regard to the tour packages, this concerned the booking costs (EUR 25 per booking) and the fee for the Emergency Fund for Travelers (EUR 2.50 per booking). With regard to the individual airline tickets, it was about the service fee of EUR 3 per booking. As a result, consumers have been misled, and were unable to compare the different offers properly. ACM has imposed fines, totaling EUR 350,000, for these violations.
Signal to travel industry
Transparent prices in the travel industry have been one of ACM’s key priorities since 2013 already. ACM therefore finds it unacceptable that there are still providers who do not comply with the rules. Their behaviour is deplorable, and is harmful to consumers. In the first months after ACM had published its principles regarding prices in the travel industry, businesses were still given the opportunity to adjust their practices if they had been given a warning. Since 2014 however, ACM has taken action directly against such violations. ACM is able to impose fines of up to EUR 450,000 for violations that were committed before July 1, 2016. For violations committed after July 1, 2016, ACM can impose fines of up to EUR 900,000 or, whichever is higher, 1 percent of the violator’s turnover.