Wednesday, 16 December 2015 23:55

ACCC sweeps for drip pricing in annual global initiative

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The ACCC has joined the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network’s Internet sweep, showing improvements to disclosure in online booking processes

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently swept a range of websites and mobile apps for conduct known as ‘drip pricing’, as part of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN)’s annual initiative involving over 50 consumer protection agencies around the world.

The ACCC says that it swept the websites and mobile apps of over 130 traders offering online bookings for services such as flights, accommodation, cruises, trains, vehicle hire, car parking and entertainment ticketing. The aim was to determine whether any of these traders were engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct.

“Results from the ACCC’s sweep last month indicate an improvement in the online booking processes among the travel, tourism and leisure sectors,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard has said.

“The sweep identified 15 traders for follow-up action, with ACCC staff finding instances where fees and charges were not adequately disclosed as early as possible in these traders’ booking processes. These fees and charges included compulsory booking fees or credit card surcharges which were not disclosed until the payment stage.

“Businesses should be mindful of the overall impression created by booking processes, ensuring there is adequate and early disclosure of both compulsory and non-compulsory fees. This is particularly important as more businesses move towards mobile platforms, given mobile websites and apps are constrained in the amount of information that can be clearly conveyed to readers,” Rickard said.

So, what is drip pricing?

More below, please read on. 

The ACCC explains that it is ‘where a headline price is advertised at the beginning of an online purchasing process and additional fees and charges (which may be unavoidable or applied in most transactions) are then incrementally disclosed (or ‘dripped’). This can result in consumers paying a higher price than the advertised price, spending more than they realise and making it more difficult to compare offers.’

Since the ACCC began its work on drip pricing, the Commission reports that ‘a number of businesses in the travel, accommodation and ticketing industries have adjusted their online pricing practices to improve disclosure of fees and charges.’

The sweep activity complements the ACCC’s broader work in drip pricing, which remains a focus for the ACCC as part of its current priority area of systemic consumer issues in the online marketplace.

Consumer tips on drip pricing are available on the ACCC’s website.

More details about drip pricing and Jetstar Airbnb, Ticketek, Ticketmaster and others here.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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