Published on Saturday, December 30, 2017

Big holiday firms accused of duping customers

Several holiday firms including Expedia, Inghams, Kuoni, Sandals and Virgin have been slammed by consumers' association Which? Travel for rushing customers into booking holidays with misleading time-limited offers.

Which? said its investigation revealed that in some cases holidays were actually offered at lower prices once a promotion had ended, leading to its claim that customers were paying 'hundreds of pounds over the odds' for trips.

It said it tracked time-limited deals over three weeks in July and August this year and found the same offer was available for the same price or cheaper in 16 out of 30 cases after the deal had ended.
Kuoni and Inghams said they had since reviewed how they promote offers as a result of the Which? findings, which have been shared with Trading Standards and the Advertising Standards Authority.
Which? warned that travel companies could be in breach of consumer protection laws if they can be shown to be misleading, and likely to cause the average person to make a transactional decision they wouldn't otherwise have made.

According to Which? Travel, in October Sandals, represented by Unique Caribbean Holidays, offered a seven-night all-inclusive holiday to Jamaica in its 'Summer 2018 Mega Sale' for £1,465 per person, yet the day after the sale ended the price dropped by £50 per person. The lower price was available for another week and its Halloween promotion followed immediately after for another seven days.

However, Unique Caribbean Holidays claimed the price of £1,465 quoted by Which? was not for summer but for winter instead. It claimed that after its summer sale had ended, there was a reduction in airfares to Jamaica, so it passed this on to customers in the form of a Halloween promotion, in which the package price was reduced to £1,415.

"All of our 'cost plus' pricing is dependent upon the rates of the airfares and accommodation that is provided to us," said the company in a statement.

"Other factors that impact rates fluctuating are exchange rates and air tax which can change daily. For example, when we have Flash Sales we have a specific date which normally ties in with an air offer expiry date. When we have extended a Flash Sale it is normally when an airline has extended a special air offer. If we didn't promote these savings then we would be at a disadvantage within the marketplace."

The operator added: "We have an open dialogue with the Advertising Standards Authority and have yet to receive any queries in regards to how we conduct our sales. Should we receive any request for information we would be happy to substantiate any claims in detail.

"We will continue to pass on price reductions that we receive from the airlines and hoteliers to our customers when new airfares become available, however will take on board the Which? investigation findings in regards to our online promotions and endeavour to ensure that when we are running Flash Sale pricing that there isn't a cheaper price available and that after a sale the pricing varies so that selling prices are different to what was previously promoted." offered a 'flash sale' of a night at the Hotel R Kipling in Paris for £139 for bookings by August 23, but the following day the price fell to £126, said Which? Travel.

It accused Virgin of cutting the cost of a seven-night trip to Florida by £230 per couple the day after a sale had ended, and it said Expedia followed a sale for two nights at a Paris hotel with another sale offering a bigger discount just a fortnight after the first had ended.

Inghams was accused of twice pushing back the expiry date of discounted trips to Italy, meaning the same prices were available a month after the original end date.

Which? Travel Editor Rory Boland said: "Our investigation shows that most of the time-limited deals we looked at are nothing of the sort. The tight deadlines, emotive language and countdown clocks are all designed to rush us into making a decision, but it might not be the right one.

"Don't be fooled - compare prices with other holiday companies and travel agents to check savings are genuine."

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  • Can anyone else remember...

    ...the days when brochure prices were brochure prices and ABTA regulations forbad any kind of discounting? Back in those days consumer associations complained bitterly about this kind of "anti-competitive" behaviour and so-called "price-fixing" and, eventually it was banned. Now companies are allowed to offer all kinds of discounts and special offers and, what do you know, consumer organisations are now complaining about how unfair it is that one customer pays less than another customer, or that a price is increased, or that a discount is not as good as it might at first appear. Things were certainly easier for travel agents in those days, when we used to be able to remember many of the important air fares since they, too were all fixed and all the same between given points. I am rather glad I have now retired.

    By Richard English, Tuesday, January 2, 2018

  • Same Old Same Old

    So what's being said here is that they're all slightly dishonest, no surprise there then. Funny how these big 'professional' travel firms say they will 'review' their promotions, accidental schoolboy errors by experienced large TO's? Yeah right, pull the other one! They may all be in breach of the consumer laws but as usual, no penalties are likely to be imposed other than a bit of finger wagging, that's why they keep pulling these cons and it will continue until the regulators show their teeth - if they actually have any!

    By Keith Standen, Tuesday, January 2, 2018

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