A co-ordinated international world-wide internet search has identified more than 50 UK travel websites which make potentially misleading claims.
and 55 local trading standards authorities were among 87 enforcement agencies in 24 countries surfing the internet for websites making potentially misleading claims about travel deals, as part of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) Sweep. Well over a thousand problem sites were identified world-wide.
Initial analysis suggests that forty per cent (54 out of 135) of UK-based websites visited during the search contained potentially misleading claims.
Claims that are being investigated under the Control of Misleading Advertising Regulations include:
* `Hot deals` on a front page which bear no resemblance to the prices of the holiday actually available on the website
* An advertisement stating `Australia from £599` when the cheapest price was £891.60
* An offer of 7 nights in Austria in March for £99, when the cheapest price was £259
* A claim of `up to 70 per cent discount off world wide hotel rooms` with no further mention of any savings or discounted deals
special offer of £64 per person per night (pppn) with certain conditions when it couldn`t be booked for less than £128 pppn.
More than 100 additional potential breaches of consumer legislation were identified under the E-Commerce Regulations, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations, Package Travel Regulations and Distance Selling Regulations.
UK-based sites identified as making potentially deceptive, misleading or false claims (and/or who have breached other consumer laws) are being pursued either by local trading standards or the OFT with a view to taking further action.
John Vickers, OFT Chairman, commented: “The internet is a valuable and expanding resource for consumers and for business. On-line shoppers must have the same protection afforded by the high street, and if traders breach fair trading law, the OFT will pursue them.”
This is the fifth time the OFT has participated in a `global internet sweep`. The sweep was conducted under the auspices of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) which is a network of consumer protection authorities of 31 countries. Its main objective is to take action to prevent and redress deceptive marketing practices with an international component.