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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2006, 16:28 GMT
Travel agents' deals 'misleading'
Travel agent's window
Trading standards officers check advertised offers
Cut-price travel companies have been accused of "misleading" customers with cheap internet prices by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI).

The TSI has criticised firms for advertising holidays at prices that do not include must-have extras, such as taxes or fuel supplements.

The TSI has urged the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to halt the practice.

Travel industry group ABTA said its code included rules not to mislead but some low-cost operators ignored them.

'Unrealistic prices'

We have a code of practice, which means charges must be included in the price
Sean Tipton, ABTA

A random check of online travel firms found several examples of vast differences between the advertised and actual price.

For example, one firm advertised a seven-night holiday in Benidorm from 59 per person but after compulsory extra charges were included, such as fuel supplements, the cost of the holiday rose to 266 for two adults.

"This misleading and illegal cocktail of confusion is being allowed to flourish and consumers are clearly being enticed to check out particular holidays and flights with unrealistic prices," Bruce Treloar, TSI lead officer on travel said.

"Travel firms are adding the word 'from' - as in 'Lanzarote, from 75' - and then think it is acceptable to fail to offer any holidays which even come close to that magical figure, once must-pay supplements are added in," he added.

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) told BBC News that it supported the TSI's call for a clampdown on misleading adverts.

"This has been an issue for a number of years, with no-frills companies advertising very low rates, attracting customers to their websites and then charging them more.

"We have a code of practice, which means charges must be included in the price. Not everyone has signed-up to this code and we need to see some action," Sean Tipton, ABTA spokesman, said.

Your comments

The price should be the price you pay
Elaine Green, UK
At last something is being done about this. I can't tell you the number of times I've checked multiple holidays online only to find the final price does not bear any reflection on the offer price. Check any online travel agency, the big ones included. This has been going on for years, started with the teletext holidays, and I am so frustrated with it. The price should be the price you pay, if you want extras fine, but compulsory "extras" such as fuel supplements must be included in the price. Holiday companies should be fined until they do, this practice will not change.
Elaine Green, UK

I work in the online travel industry - there is a horrible problem with supplements - operators should add them on, and have no reason to (why add 40 per person supplement, when you can simply increase the cost of the basic holiday) - but also remember that occupancy levels always effect the final price - it's cheaper to fill a 2 bedroom apartment up with 4 that to share it between 2 people - when they advertise prices they don't know how many people are going to be in the hotel rooms.
Robert Clegg, Altrincham, Cheshire

Another example of 'undisclosed' costs arose only in the past couple of weeks, when we found that on a coach escorted holiday in the USA, costs of between $3-$5 should be paid to the driver and a similar amount to the tour guide/director by EACH passenger for EACH tour day. In our case that would have been 12 days at a cost, which was not even mentioned in any booking documents or catalogue, of up to $240 (133). This was only realised a week before the holiday when the ticket and holiday details arrived. Coach journeys used to be a 'voluntary' gratuity and anyone going on this time of holiday for the first time will probably not realise about the extra costs. It should be stated in the booking details. On a 49 seater coach this would raise 3258.50 - wish I could earn this type of money for 12 days work !
Michael Satherley, Bristol, UK

Not all agents who advertise on the web are out to mislead you
Jatinder Singh, London, UK

I work for a business travel agency in London, and offer flights on the web, the advert would say for example London to Delhi 299.00 plus taxes. The reason we don't show the tax is simply because, they are based on the rate of exchange and also fuel prices so the tax today could be 50.00 but tomorrow could be 70.00. Not all agents who advertise on the web are out to mislead you.
Jatinder Singh, London, UK

Recently booked a holiday for 2 advertised for 324pp. After additional charges the total cost was 802. The additional charges were 40pp fuel supp and 1.5% Credit card charge. This negated any original discounts.
Mr Cardoza, Leicester

I recently complained to the Advertising Standards about online advertising of a product, and received the reply that they could not do anything about internet advertisements, despite the fact that the ad was on a .co.uk site, aimed at UK consumers. Small print, and hidden T & C's are allowing advertising standards to drop, and consumers to be to become vulnerable!
Charlie Stott, UK

Taxes and fuel charges should automatically be included in the price
Moonli Christian, Cardiff, UK

It is not only travel agents that advertise misleading prices but airlines as well. For example stating a flight to Paris is only 39, the final price ends up being closer to 70! Taxes and fuel charges should automatically be included in the price because what is the point of advertising a price when there is no way that consumers will be able to purchase the product at that price?
Moonli Christian, Cardiff, UK

My partner and I saved for a holiday over Christmas. We looked online and saw a 14 night, all inclusive trip to Mexico for 1100 each. We figured - we've saved hard and want to treat ourselves so why not. The actual figure we paid after all the "extras" were added on and the "no rooms in that hotel but we've got you another" was 1500 each which is a hell of a lot to add on to a price advertised for a holiday.
Ben, Sandhurst, UK

We are an internet travel agency and an ABTA member. We'd much prefer to show the price inclusive of all the extras, but ABTA turns a blind eye when their tour operating members distribute 'basic' prices and add all the extras on afterwards.
Antony Bradley, Croydon, England

The practice of "hidden" supplements is so frustrating and importantly time consuming. Holidays often include additional supplements for meals, resort transfers, ticket on-collection, late booking fees, fuel supplements, under-occupancy (even when you get to the resort and there isn't a spare bed to speak of), travel insurance (which you have to opt out of instead of opt-in if you already have it), credit card payment surcharge etc.

The other frustration is when you get to the price stage and then have to call up a phone number (rather than book online) and then find out that holiday is no longer available and the option is one more expensive.
Darren Sharp, London

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