Travel companies should make sure they are ready for a new advertising code due to come into force next week.
From March 1, travel company adverts on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are to come under the scrutiny of the Advertising Standards Authority for the first time.
At the moment, the ASA has jurisdiction only over paid-for adverts and sales promotions online, but its powers are being extended.
The expansion of the remit has been partly funded by a Â£200,000 donation from search engine giant Google.
Travelzoo warned today that the new code will be difficult to police without the assistance of the public.
It said its own researchers have found that over 80% of the travel offers they currently review are misleading to consumers or do not represent good value.
Under the new code, the ASA will be able to remove paid-for search ads that link back to web pages hosting non-compliant marketing communication, and â€œname and shameâ€ companies that continue to not comply with advertising regulations.
Travelzooâ€™s European operations director Stephen Dunk said: â€œTravelzoo 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.
â€œTo 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.
â€œEach 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over 80% of the deals that we find for a number of reasons, including misleading deal information or prices that are out of date or not available.
â€œJust last week we found hotel deals advertised in the weekend papers at under Â£40 per night. When the team tried to test-book the deals, some rates were only available for one or two nights.â€œ
He said the main issues Travelzooâ€™s deal experts come across each week are:
- Deals have already sold out or are no longer available at the price originally advertised
- Deals where there are significant hidden costs involved that change the final price of the deal
- Deals that cannot be booked online and sales teams are not aware of the deal when customers call to book.
By Bev Fearis
Tuesday, February 22, 2011