Holidaymakers warned: Buy in haste, repent at leisure

Booking a holiday in a hurry in a bid to clinch the best price deal could be an mistake, a new consumer watchdog investigation has shown.

Booking a holiday in a hurry in a bid to clinch the best price deal could be an mistake, a new consumer watchdog investigation has shown.

Travellers face being misled by holiday adverts that rush people into making a quick decision by suggesting they will miss out on bargain price deals if they do not book immediately, according to the study.

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The investigation by Which? Travel studied 30 adverts that either used the word “hurry” or were a time-limited offer with a specific cut-off date.

The watchdog found that, once the closing date of the sale had passed, the same or lower prices were available in 13 of the examples, suggesting there may have been no need to hurry after all.

The watchdog says that “hurry deals” entice potential customers with the prospect of huge savings for a short time only. Which? found examples of deals where prices were cut after a sale period ended and others where short-term sales were undercut by follow-up sales soon after. It also found examples where better deals could be found after the sale period had ended.

Chris Gray, assistant editor of Which? Travel, said: “These adverts are a common marketing technique in the lead-up to peak summer season as travel companies try to stimulate demand and push people into buying. But Which? Travel thinks it is misleading to tell people to hurry when the same or lower prices will be available long after the ‘offer’ ends. And it’s not enough for companies to try to cover themselves by burying a clause saying prices can vary in the small print.”

Which? said it believed travel companies were doing three things that could be considered misleading. They were extending deals beyond the advertised deadlines, cutting prices after the hurry-deal offer had finished and repeating hurry deals one after another.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd added: “No-one likes finding out that someone on the same holiday paid less for it. But it’s even worse if you bought your holiday in a rush because the ads told you the prices would be available only for a short time.

“It’s unacceptable that holidaymakers are hurried into making decisions that might not give them the best value for money.

“Travel companies understandably have to adjust prices up or down according to demand. But they shouldn’t kid consumers that the prices on offer won’t be around for long.”