Expedia's website operator BEX says it will stop false claims

The false promotional claims had been around since 2016 and were taken down in October last year while investigations were ongoing. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM EXPEDIA.COM.SG

SINGAPORE - The website operator of online travel company Expedia Singapore - BEX Travel Asia - has ceased its false claims on the validity period of its "Daily Deals" promotions and affirmed that it will not engage in further unfair practices from Thursday (Nov 12).

The announcement follows an investigation by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) in April last year.

The commission found that there were at least 55 "Daily Deals" offers on the website, which claimed to expire at 11.59pm each day but the prices remained the same after midnight.

These misleading promotions included hotel deals and holiday package deals which were offered on the Expedia Singapore website and e-mailed to customers on BEX's mailing list.

"Such false claims in relation to promotional prices mislead consumers into believing that there is a price benefit which is only available for a limited period, thus creating unwarranted pressure or a sense of urgency for consumers to make an immediate purchase," said CCCS.

The false promotional claims by BEX had been around since 2016 and were taken down in October last year while investigations were ongoing.

The consumer watchdog, which issued a warning to BEX, added that misleading consumers in such a manner constitutes an unfair practice in breach of the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA).

BEX has undertaken that it will from Thursday ensure that promotions on the Expedia Singapore website will not be communicated to consumers as being available for a limited time period even though the promotion is expected to remain available afterwards.

BEX also affirmed that it will not communicate promotions as being valid for a specific time period where the promotion may cease before the time period expires.

In addition, it will comply with the CPFTA and take prompt steps to cease any unfair practices in breach of the Act.

CCCS said it is closely monitoring other businesses that engage in similar unfair practices.

The commission also urged all businesses to review their business practices to comply with the CPFTA.

On Nov 1, the CCCS' guidelines on price transparency came into effect.

They provide more clarity on what constitutes an infringement of consumer protection laws, and set out the factors and circumstances that the commission may consider in assessing if advertised prices and related practices are potentially misleading.

Under the Act, the CCCS is empowered to investigate errant businesses and file an injunction application against them.

If they do not cease the unfair practice, the businesses can be charged with contempt of court, which carries a fine of up to $10,000, up to a year's imprisonment, or both.

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