Airlines will be forced to be upfront about hidden fees

Airlines will be forced to be more honest about the full cost of tickets, as part of government plans to stamp out hidden fees.

Ministers have promised action against rip-off firms, including airlines, which add unavoidable charges at the checkout, a practice known as “drip pricing”.

They will also take action against fake reviews and confusing labels, both of which make it harder for consumers to judge a product or a service.

It came as new research showed that nearly three quarters, 72 per cent, of transport websites, including rail and air, include hidden fees in the prices of their products.

Charges include extra fees for baggage added on to the price of an airline ticket.

Drip pricing – where the price paid at checkout is higher than originally advertised because of extra, but necessary, fees – occurs in 54 per cent of the entertainment sector and 56 per cent in the hospitality industry.

The Government said that this costs British consumers £1.6 billion online each year.

Improving clarity for consumers

Kevin Hollinrake, the business minister, said: “Today’s measures will help people keep hold of their hard-earned cash and ensure they have the clearest and most accurate information upfront before they make a purchase.

“From the shelves of supermarkets to digital trolleys, modern-day shopping provides a great wealth of choice. But fake reviews and hidden fees can make those choices increasingly confusing and leaves customers unsure about what product is right for them.

“We’ll be listening to industry to ensure these new regulations work for businesses too and don’t generate unnecessary burdens, while at the same time providing a crucial safety net for consumers and their cash.”

Mr Hollinrake also announced the launch of a consultation seeking views on measures to stop fake reviews.

The ambition is to ensure consumers and traders continue to benefit from reviews that represent a genuine experience, while stamping out the purchase and sales of fake reviews, and ensuring firms take an appropriate level of responsibility for reviews on their websites.

Another consultation looks at how to simplify labelling on goods. The aim is to ensure unit pricing is consistently applied, including to promotions and special offers, helping consumers compare products easily and identify what items represent the best value to them.

Sunak’s drip pricing pledge

Speaking on a trip to Washington in the summer, Rishi Sunak said that his government would be looking at the issue as part of its efforts to help people with the cost of living crisis.

“The Department for Business and Trade are looking into this issue of drip pricing to just get a sense of how widespread and how damaging it might be,” he said.

“I think we’re all probably anecdotally and individually aware of this practice. You just get more and more things added on to the cost of something as you move through a process and there’s just not the kind of price transparency that you’d expect.

“So we’re concerned about that. We want to make sure that we keep helping people with the cost of living.

“And this is a practice that we want to make sure that we’re across, and looking at to see how harmful it is and if we need to take further action. And that’s the work that we’ll be doing.”

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