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News & views

Definitely not dishonest, let’s be clear

[21 Jan 2013] The travel-trade association Abta has admitted that some of its members are using deceptive advertising to attract customers, with websites promoting cut-price deals that either don’t exist or are hard to locate.

The Sunday Times recently found that one Abta member’s site advertised a three-night break in Benidorm for £162, but a phone call to the booking number revealed this to be something called a ‘lead-in price’, the best real rate available being £219. The company management (aka the Bullshit Team) said: ‘This will be investigated fully. We have more than 30m holidays on our site and there are checks in place.’

Indeed so; but they’re the kind of checks that don’t work.

Another outfit advertised a Mallorca break for £72, but when the newspaper called to book the package, they were told it ‘didn’t include the booking fee’. The lowest real price was £91.

The media rarely uses the words ‘scam’, ‘lying’, ‘dishonest’ and ‘fraud’ for fear of libel actions, and the UK has such fierce defamation laws that almost anything mildly critical of shoddy practices is actionable and very expensive to defend. This is why so many consumer cons go unexposed: media folk don’t think it’s worth the risk. Only brave and deep-pocketed programmes like the BBC’s ‘Watchdog’ and ‘You and Yours’ dare to take on the scammers, to whom they always have to give lengthy rights of reply. The people they’ve ripped off rarely get any redress because trading standards departments can’t afford to enforce consumer-protection laws.

It all goes to show that although information may be stated in clear language, this doesn’t necessarily make it honest. And scammers don’t always use obscure language as their weapon of choice: sometimes they just lie openly, in plain sight.

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