Travelzoo issues warning over new ASA regulations

Travel deals publisher Travelzoo has warned that a new online advertising code in the UK will be difficult to police without the public reporting instances of malpractice.

The new code, which comes into force on March 1, makes it illegal for companies to post misleading or confusing marketing communications on their own website. It also bans such content on any social media platforms a company controls.

The Advertising Standards Authority will even be able to remove paid-for search ads that link back to web pages hosting non-compliant content.

Travelzoo said that of the many offers they review, more than 80% are misleading. That means the task of enforcing the new rules could become overwhelming.

Travelzoo’s European operations director Stephen Dunk said: “Travelzoo very much welcomes the extended regulations, but we are concerned that they will be difficult to police, given the sheer scale of the internet and how prolific social media now is.

“To come up with our weekly Top 20 deals, the team searches through hundreds of travel offers, advertised in all forms of media including print, broadcast, online and social media.

“Each week, we have to reject over 80% of the deals that we find for a number of reasons, including misleading deal information or prices that are out of date or not available. 

“Just last week we found hotel deals advertised in the weekend papers at under £40 per night. When the team tried to test-book the deals, some rates were only available for one or two nights.”

The problems Travelzoo most commonly finds in its research are sold out deals, hidden costs and the inability to actually book at an offered price.

Dunk said total enforcement of the new rules will not be possible without public support. He is urging anyone who comes across misleading deals to report them to the Advertising Standards Authority.

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