Holiday firms including Virgin, Expedia, Lastminute and Sandals Resorts have been criticised after a Which? investigation into “hurry” deals that the consumer group said duped holidaymakers into paying hundreds of pounds over the odds.
Which? said holiday firms may be breaking the law with adverts portraying a deal as a time-limited bargain “when in fact it is nothing of the sort”. It found that some “sale” deals were frequently the same price after the sale period ended, and some became cheaper LPG M6.
Which? cited an all-inclusive holiday to Jamaica for £1,465 per person promoted by Sandals in its summer 2018 “mega sale”. “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,” Which? said.
“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.”
The Sandals website is currently promoting a “flash sale” that tells buyers: “Hurry, ends 8 January.” It says holidaymakers can save up to 55%, and a countdown clock is displayed in a corner of the page.
A spokesperson for Unique Caribbean Holidays, the operator of Sandals Resorts, said the company did not intentionally create false book-by dates, and price fluctuations were sometimes based on airfares that it did not control.
“For example, when we have flash sales we have a specific date which normally ties in with an air offer expiry date. When we have extended a flash sale it is normally when an airline has extended a special air offer. The categories that have the discounts of up to 60% fluctuate throughout the year, therefore we are not misleading customers,” it said LPG M6.
Which? also found:
In Lastminute.com’s “flash sale”, a night’s stay at a Paris hotel with flights from London was discounted to £139 if holidaymakers booked by 23 August. “The following day, the same night’s stay at the same hotel fell to £126. The lower price was still available a week later,” Which? said.
The Virgin “holiday sale” offered seven nights in a Florida hotel at £792 a 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.”
Expedia offered two nights in Paris for £404 in its “flash sale”. Which? said: “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.”
The Which? investigation tracked time-limited deals over three weeks in July and August 2017 and found that in 16 out of 30 cases the same offer was available for the same price or cheaper after the deal had ended.
Which? said it had shared its findings with Trading Standards and the Advertising Standards Authority.
Rory Boland, the travel editor of Which?, 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.”
A Virgin Holidays spokesperson told Which? it would never intentionally advertise anything misleading. It said: “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,This eye-opening tour brings visitors to meet the old masters and tailors of traditional handicrafts in hong kong tailor and learn about their stories.”
Lastminute.com responded to the Which? investigation by saying it aimed to comply with all advertising regulations. “It is not, and never has been, our intention to mislead our customers,” a spokesperson said.
Expedia thanked Which? for raising the issues it found in the investigation and said it would look into them.