Consumer

Consumers warned to beware ‘unreal’ travel packages

We all love a good deal, but shoppers are being warned to exercise caution when offers seem “too good to be true”.

Consumer Protection WA retail and services acting director Lanie Chopping said consumers should be aware of deals that seemed unrealistic.

Perth resident Xue Kao faced this issue when she booked a family trip with P&O Cruises in October, just one day before the site was taken down because of a pricing error caused by a system malfunction.

For that weekend, the P&O Cruises site promoted $99 tickets for a three-night stay on the Pacific Eden cruise ship.

Ms Kao said the price was $649 per person when the site was made accessible again.

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The correct price, originally advertised as $99

“I got a call on Tuesday afternoon from P&O to be told there was a pricing problem over the weekend, so they offered me the adjusted price with the on-board credit vouchers,” Ms Kao said.

“They said they were unable to honour the price which was mistakenly offered over the weekend.”

Ms Kao told them she had already paid the full price as requested and said she had a contract with P&O which bound both parties to the agreement.

“The terms and conditions clearly stated that a price is guaranteed once paid in full,” Ms Kao said.

P&O Cruises spokesman David Jones said the issue had since been resolved.

“As you would understand, we receive many thousands of cruise bookings and, in this context, a very limited number of people responded to a published fare that was clearly incorrect,” Mr Jones said.

“It was quickly corrected, but as a matter of goodwill, we ultimately took a decision to honour the published price for people from whom we had accepted a deposit.”

P&O Cruises refused to reveal how many people had made a deposit during this period.

Ms Chopping said Australian consumer law allows a company to break the terms of a contract if the average person was likely to see the offer price as being in error.

“There are some crazy ridiculous offers going on in the travel industry at the moment so travel agents are a bit like the rest of us and take deals at face value,” Ms Chopping said.

Ms Kao said she never suspected there had been an error in the pricing, and booked the tickets through travel agency Cruiseabout.

“At that moment, it was specially promoted by P&O as a sale called the Big Splash Sale,” she said.

“With the promotions of their sale, it seemed that any prices could be reasonable to make people interested.”

Ms Chopping said consumers should book trips through an accredited travel agent with a complaint system.

“The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has an industry-led accreditation scheme which has a charter and code of conduct, as well as a complaint handling process as part of good industry practice,” she said.

“We also always advise consumers to consider accessing travel insurance to cater for circumstances where things might not go as initially planned.”