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Expedia Singapore website operator stops false claims on promotions

Expedia Singapore website operator stops false claims on promotions

Source: Business Times
Article Date: 13 Nov 2020
Author: Rachel Mui

Comsumers were mislead into believing that a price benefit is available only for a limited period, created unwarranted pressure to make an inmmediate purchase: CCCS.

BEX Travel Asia, the operator of the Expedia Singapore website, has ceased its false claims and undertaken to stop further unfair practices in relation to the validity periods of its promotions.

This follows an investigation by Singapore's competition watchdog, with the undertaking effective on Thursday.

In April last year, the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) started its probe into the "Daily Deals" promotions that BEX had offered on the Expedia Singapore website and in electronic direct mailers sent to consumers subscribed to BEX's mailing lists.

The promotions involved the listing of certain "Daily Hotel Deals" and "Daily Package Deals", which BEX stated were valid for only 24 hours and would expire at 11.59pm each day. However, CCCS's investigation found at least 55 "Daily Deals" offers in which the promotional prices remained the same even after 11.59pm, contrary to BEX's representation that the prices changed daily.

In the commission's view, such false claims mislead consumers into believing that a price benefit is available only for a limited period, thus creating unwarranted pressure or a sense of urgency for consumers to make an immediate purchase.

The false claims on promotions had been taking place since 2016 and ceased in October 2019, the watchdog said. At the end of the investigation, CCCS concluded that these false claims constituted unfair practices, which breached the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act.

After considering the facts of the case, including the fact that the breaches have ceased, CCCS administered a warning to BEX.

The competition watchdog has also accepted BEX's undertaking to comply with the Act and to take prompt steps to cease all unfair practices in breach of the Act.

Among other things, the company has undertaken to ensure that promotions on its site are not communicated as being available for a limited time period when they remain available thereafter, or communicated as being valid for a specific time period when the promotion may end before that.

CCCS on Thursday said the self-initiated investigation on Expedia Singapore arose out of its market monitoring efforts. It added that it is monitoring consumer markets for possible unfair practices that harm consumers.

Said the commission: "Where suppliers specify a time period during which a product or service will be sold at a discounted price, suppliers should state the time period for when the discount is actually valid clearly and prominently, and not make false claims or otherwise mislead consumers."

These obligations also extend to suppliers which provide only booking services.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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