Websites selling bargain holidays, flights and hotels are “misleading consumers”, according to a European Commissioner.
Věra Jourová, commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, said travel services were among the most common consumer complaints according to research from the European Consumer Centres and warned of a “growing number of problems” with online travel companies.
The EU body has identified 235 websites – two thirds of the 352 sites it monitored – which it wants to bring in line with EU consumer legislation.
Prices displayed on such sites are often not a true reflection of what customers will pay, its investigation – which covered 28 European countries – found.
In one third of cases, customers did not pay what was first advertised, in one fifth promotional offers were not available and in one third of cases the price was “not clear”.
It also found that a fifth of websites, some of which were price comparison sites, presented peer reviews in an unclear way and that a quarter of sites were unclear on advertising limited availability.
Jourová said: “The Internet provides consumers with plenty of information to prepare, compare and book their holidays. However, if the reviews on comparison websites are biased or prices are not transparent, these websites are misleading consumers.
“The companies concerned need to respect the European consumer rules, just like a travel agent would. Consumer authorities will now require the websites to solve these issues. Consumers deserve the same protection online as offline.”