Singapore competition watchdog to crack down on travel booking sites

Government agency highlights ‘hidden’ charges, including travel insurance

Singapore competition watchdog to crack down on travel booking sites

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) has come out with a set of rules governing online travel booking websites, prohibiting ‘hidden’ charges and pre-ticked boxes for add-ons such as travel insurance.

The CCCS recently concluded a nine-month study of the online travel booking economy and released a 60-page report on its website, Today reported. Public feedback on the report will be gathered until October 21.

One of the major areas of concern the report identified was ‘drip pricing’, where sites do not disclose mandatory and optional charges upfront. These include credit card or insurance charges. This, according to the CCCS, can mislead customers into making a purchase based on incomplete price information.

In its new guidelines, the CCCS ordered travel booking sites to ensure that any unavoidable or mandatory charges, such as taxes, surcharges, and room cleaning fees, are factored in the total headline price. Meanwhile, optional add-ons such as travel insurance must be clearly shown to consumers, allowing them to make an informed decision regarding the add-on.

With regard to optional add-ons, the CCCS also noticed that several sites had these options pre-checked by default, causing unwitting consumers to buy unwanted additional products or services. According to the commission, websites should avoid pre-ticked boxes automatically including add-ons such as insurance. If the company uses pre-ticked boxes, they must be clearly visible to the consumer.

Other issues the CCCS called attention to include misleading ‘strikethrough’ pricing, where the crossed-out ‘original’ price is inflated to create a sense that the consumer is getting a huge discount, as well as pressure selling using misleading claims that seek to create a false sense of urgency that the available flights or rooms are fast running out.

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