10 tips on purchasing holidays online and avoiding unpleasant surprises in the final price

The European Consumer Centres Network has published its report on booking holidays online. Especially when booking flights online, the initial price tends to increase as the booking process progresses. Holidays are advertised with an initial price which does not include various additional fees, such as handling fees and payment surcharges. Hence, the final price might be considerably higher than the advertised initial price. However, the consumer should be given the total price including any taxes, fees, and other charges as early in the booking process as possible to enable comparisons between service providers and airlines.

Today, many opt to book their vacations and flights online. In 2015, the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) received over 10,200 complaints regarding the online booking of holidays and flights.

To alert consumers to pay attention on how the initial price increases as the booking process progresses, the European Consumer Centres Network published these 10 tips for online booking. The tips are part of the European Consumer Centres Network’s report “Online holiday booking: Is the initial price the final price?”. The report was published in May 2017, and is based on data collected in 2016. The joint project was led by ECC Luxembourg.

10 tips on booking your holiday online

  1. Check whether or not you can cancel your booking. When booking online, you do not have a statutory right to cancel your flight, accommodation, or holiday – not even immediately after confirming your booking. Instead, your right to cancel your booking depends on the cancellation policy of the online service provider. Therefore, we recommend reading the terms and conditions carefully to determine on what grounds you can cancel your trip and be refunded for any payments made, if at all.
  2. Be sure to enter the details correctly. Be sure to type your name correctly and to enter the correct travel dates – service providers tend to charge a fee for even minor corrections to these details. If you intend to travel on a fixed date, make sure the given price is not for a flexible period of time, but for the specific date you entered.
  3. What “extras” do you need? Review the contract to verify what is included in the price and what is available for an additional charge (e.g. breakfasts at the hotel, checked baggage, one-way car rentals etc.).
  4. What does your insurance cover? Perhaps, your trade union membership includes passenger insurance but does not cover lost luggage? Review any existing insurance policy, and only agree to extend your insurance coverage, if it is necessary. Remember to carefully review the terms and conditions of any offered insurance policies. Pay special attention on the terms and conditions of car rentals.
  5. Do not automatically accept default options. The EU regulations forbid the use of so-called pre-ticked boxes where additional services – or “extras” – have been selected by default. According to the EU regulations, consumers must make these choices knowingly, i.e. “opt-in”. If you notice that some extras have been selected by default, inform the local consumer protection authority, and deselect the extras you do not need. Note that it is also against the EU regulations to have the “I have read and agree to the terms and conditions” box selected as default.
  6. Does the selected payment method affect your final price? Sometimes, an additional fee is added to the total price, if you choose to pay by credit card, for example.
  7. Take screenshots when necessary. Take a screenshot of each screen during the booking process, if you feel you need to ensure that you have evidence of the details you entered, or of the price. Screenshots are useful, should disputes arise.
  8. Review all data before confirming your booking. Before confirming your booking and agreeing to make a purchase, carefully review all details of the reservation. Note that often after you have confirmed your booking, you can no longer cancel it, and the booking is binding irrespective of whether you have given your payment details and credit card number, or not.
  9. Make informed choices. If the final price is higher than the initial price you were given at the beginning of your booking process, take some time to consider whether you really want to confirm your booking, or not.  Additional service charges and other fees are likely to increase the final price. Hence, you might not want to make your final decision until you have reached the confirmation stage. At this point, you are still free to survey other options.
  10. Check your email. Confirmation emails and booking details are typically sent to the email address you gave during the booking process. Check your email! If you do not receive an email message confirming your booking, check your junk or spam mail folder. Contact the service provider, if you did not receive any message of confirmation.

In addition to the European Consumer Centres Network’s report on booking holidays online, the EU consumer protection authorities launched a coordinated screening of price comparison and travel booking websites last year. The preliminary results of this screening were announced by the European Commission in April 2017.

The European Consumer Centre Finland is part of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) which has offices in the 28 EU Member States, and in Norway and Iceland. The aim of the network is to provide consumers assistance and advice, free of charge, on their cross-border purchases, whether online or on the spot within these 30 countries. For more information on the ECC-Net and its operations, please visit www.ecc.fi/en/.