Deal or no deal?: Holiday bargains not what they seem

Travellers are being duped into paying hundreds of pounds over the odds for flights and holidays by misleading “hurry deals,” a Which? Travel investigation has revealed.

The consumer champion found some popular holiday companies may be breaking the law with adverts portraying a deal as a time-limited bargain, when in fact it is nothing of the sort.

Which? tracked time-limited deals over three weeks in July and August 2017 and found the same offer was available for the same price or cheaper in 16 out of 30 cases after the deal had ended.

Two holiday companies – Kuoni and Inghams – said they had reviewed how they promote offers as a result of our findings, which have been shared with Trading Standards and the Advertising Standards Authority.

A retailer’s actions could be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) 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.

·  In October, Sandals’ (represented by its UK tour operator, Unique Caribbean Holidays Ltd.) ‘Summer 2018 Mega Sale’ offered a seven-night, all-inclusive break to Jamaica from £1,465 per person. Yet, the day after the ‘sale’ ended, the price dropped by £50 per person. The lower price continued to run for another week after the sale ended – no need to hurry after all. Its Halloween promotion followed immediately after, with another seven days added to the countdown clock. The upmarket travel company seemingly runs 60%-off promotions back-to-back under various guises. Currently there is another ‘60% off’ deal.

·  In’s ‘flash sale’, a night’s stay at the Hotel R Kipling in Paris, with flights from London, discounted to £139 if you booked by 23 August (no mention of the original rate). The following day, the same night’s stay at the same hotel fell to £126. The lower price was still available a week later.

·  The Virgin ‘Holiday Sale’ offered seven nights at Florida’s Coco Key Hotel from £792 per person, if booked by 17 August. The day after the sale, the same dates had dropped to £677 per person – a £230 saving for two people sharing. A week later, the package increased to £682 per person, but this was still cheaper than the ‘sale’ price

·  Two nights at Paris’ Ares Eiffel hotel were available for £404 through Expedia’s ‘flash sale’. A day after the sale ended, the same dates in September went up to £628. However, a fortnight later, a new 40% off promotion was running and the same stay was available for £382 – £22 cheaper than the sale price.

·  Inghams Italy’s website offered discounted trips to Capri, Milan and Puglia until 4 August. But the expiry date was pushed back twice, meaning the same prices were still available a month later.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor, 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.”

– END –

Notes to Editors:

·  Research: Which? collected weekend newspaper adverts that used the word ‘hurry’, or included a time-limited promotion, over three weeks in July and August 2017. Which? also signed up to travel-company mailing lists and looked at online deals during the same period.

·  A spokesperson for Unique Caribbean Holidays Ltd., the UK tour operator for Sandals Resorts, told Which? the company does not intentionally pressure sell or create false book-by dates, and that all of the Sandals and Beaches Resorts’ fully protected packages (with ALL taxes and surcharges in the advertised price) are fairly promoted to the customer.

·  A Virgin Holidays spokesperson told Which? that it would never intentionally advertise anything misleading. It added: ‘We’re always looking to secure the best possible value for our customers – and should we be able to obtain better offers from our suppliers, these savings will be passed on to benefit the customer.’

· responded to Which?’s investigating by saying that it aims to comply with all advertising regulations. ‘It is not, and never has been, our intention to mislead our customers,’ a spokesperson added.

·  Expedia thanked Which? for raising the issues it found in the investigation and said it was going to investigate them.

·  A spokesperson for Kuoni told Which? it takes the findings ‘extremely seriously’, adding: ‘It’s never our intention to mislead customers… These offers should have been promoted as special offers rather than a sale, and we have ensured processes are in place to clarify this going forward.’

·  After investigating the matter, Inghams told Which? the webpage in question no longer existed. It also promised to ‘review all procedures’ to ensure this didn’t happen in future.

Press Release