Websites offering air travel and accommodation – 62% now compliant after sweep 2013
In summer 2013, national authorities checked websites selling air travel and hotel accommodation, including websites of both traders and intermediaries. They checked in total 552 websites. After further investigation, national authorities found a total of 382 websites to be non-compliant with EU consumer law. They either contacted subsequently the national companies which run the non-compliant websites in order to bring then in line with EU consumer law or for companies established in another Member State asked for assistance of the authority in that Member State. To date, 173 websites have been corrected. 209 websites are subject to ongoing proceedings.
The websites were checked to determine whether information on the key characteristics of the services was easily accessible; whether the price was indicated at an early stage and inclusive of optional supplements; whether the websites provided email addresses to which questions and complaints might be submitted; and to see whether the websites contained terms and conditions available before the purchase and written in plain and easy to understand language. The main problems found were:
- A lack of mandatory information on the trader's identity, in particular their email address, depriving consumers from an effective contact channel. 162 websites did not contain this information.
- A lack of clear instructions on how to complain. 157 websites did not provide this information.
- Optional price supplements, such as baggage fee, insurance fee, priority boarding, are not on an “opt-in” basis. This problem occurred with 133 websites.
- The total price of the service is not indicated up-front when the main elements of the booking are first displayed. 112 websites failed to give this information.
A "sweep" is an EU-wide screening of websites to identify breaches of consumer law and to subsequently ensure its enforcement. The sweep is coordinated by the European Commission and run simultaneously by national enforcement authorities. The Travel Services Sweep took place in 27 EU Member States, Norway and Iceland in June 2013.
7 consumer tips when buying travel services online
- Can you contact the trader? Make sure that the trader provides his name, geographical and e-mail address. In case you book via an intermediary, check that you receive the contact details of the carrier airline or the hotel in addition to those of the intermediary.
- Do you have all the information you need about the air travel or hotel? Check that you are given sufficient information, for example about the trip (route, timing) and the carrier airline or about the name and location of the hotel.
- How much is it really going to cost? Look out for the final price; the final price may be higher than prices indicated initially or in ads as it may include optional charges which you may choose explicitly and not via pre-ticked boxes.
- Do you have a right to reimbursement? Be aware that often you cannot cancel your travel services booking for free or even at all. Look for information about the cancellation policy.
- Can you find easily the contract terms? Be aware that you should be able to print or save otherwise a copy of the company’s terms and conditions at the latest just before the purchase.
- Do you have a problem? Report it immediately to the contacts indicated to you, for example when a hotel is not in conformity with your booking.
- Is your flight delayed? Remember that as a passenger you have specific rights.
In case of a problem with a trader in another Member State you can report it to your local European Consumer Centre.