Spring cleaning at European travel websites

National authorities checked 552 websites of travel providers. 69% did not meet the European consumer law and were asked to adapt their content. Meanwhile 62% followed the request.

 

Just 31% of the reviewed websites could hold up to the screening. At the other 69% - that’s 382 websites – deficiencies were observed. The so called "sweep" was coordinated by the European Commission and carried out by national authorities. Up to now, 62% of the websites are EU compliant due to interventions.

 

Who was validated?

 

The sweep was aimed at providers of hotels and flights but also at intermediaries offering those services. The national authorities proposed websites for the sweep due to popularity or on the basis of information already available about existing problems. In Austria, nine travel providers were checked, six of which were deficient. One of them already adjusted his website, against the other four legal and administrative proceedings continue.

 

The European Commission implements such sweeps on a regular basis. The reason for screening the websites of travel providers 2013 is the rising popularity of such online services among European internet users. In 2012, 32% of them booked their hotels and flights online. At the same time, consumers often face problems in this area. The European Consumer Centres accounted 5950 complaints about flight travels in 2013.

 

The "Travel Services Sweep" was carried out in June 2013 in the 27 EU Member States (without Croatia which was not a Member State by then) and Island and Norway. The screening phase was followed by the so called “enforcement phase” which is still ongoing. The national authorities query deficiencies to the website providers and check if they debug them.

 

What was checked?

  • The travel providers were checked to determine if their websites hold up to the European consumer law.
  • Are all relevant informations about the provided services easily accessible and easy to understand?
  • Is the price indicated at an early stage and inclusive of optional supplements?
  • Is the consumer served with informations about the identity of the provider and possibilities of contacting or complaining?

 

The most common faults

  1. A lack of mandatory information on the trader's identity, in particular their email address, depriving consumers from an effective contact channel. 162 websites (30%) did not contain this information.
  2. A lack of clear instructions on how to complain. 157 websites (28%) did not provide this information.
  3. Optional price supplements, such as baggage fee, insurance fee, priority boarding, are not on an “opt-in” basis. This problem occurred with 133 websites (24%).
  4. The total price of the service is not indicated up-front when the main elements of the booking are first displayed. 112 websites (20%) failed to give this information.

(© European Commission)

 

Interim results of the Travel Services Sweep

 

Of the 552 screened websites, 382 were deficient, which is a share of 69%. 173 websites have already been updated and corrected. The national authorities are implementing on-going legal and administrative measures to make sure the other 209 websites will become EU compliant. 52 travel providers already committed to correct their websites. Six websites were taken offline and no longer exist after the sweep.