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Cheap Tricks: How Online Travel Portals Set Their Prices

Cheap Tricks: How Online Travel Portals Set Their Prices
| Editorial Staff

Springtime is vacation booking time in Europe, the first warm rays of sunshine give the travel portals particularly high volume of bookings.  More and more people are making their travel plans on the Internet, as they expect the lowest price there.

But the truth is that dubious method are often used when pricing. The travel package offers depend on the operating device such as PC, smartphone, tablet or smart TV with different prices for identical trips; the user has no idea this is affecting his vacation cost.  It’s like travel agent asking what type of car you drive, and then pricing the selected trip based on the value of your vehicle!

It is not without reason that the former German NRW Consumer Protection Minister Johannes Remmel put the price policy of the so-called dynamic price adjustment on the agenda of the Consumer Protection Conference and called for more transparency in order to be able to uncover methods of unequal treatment in price setting.

Consumer Advocates Sound The Alarm

Anyone surfing the Internet transmits system metadata.  For example, the technical systems of the travel portals check which end device the user is currently using.  With this information, the price can then be adjusted.  In marketing, the pricing of such methods is referred to as dynamic pricing – consumer advocates call it more appropriate “price discrimination.”  For identical products, shoppers will be shown different prices at the same time and at from the same provider – pricing will depend on the device being used.

As the German TV magazine “ZDF Wiso” found out in March 2016, almost all tested and well-known travel portals make such discriminating price adjustments, with surprising results.

Price Advantages For Mobile Devices

The price policy is not necessarily based on the market or the competition, but according to user-oriented factors.  Travelers who use a mobile device to visit the portal and ask for prices have a clear advantage.  Either the same hotel is offered at a much cheaper rate, differences of ten euros per night were not uncommon, or the user of a smartphone receives a free cancellation option, so also a better offer.

Resist Discriminatory Pricing Methods

However, to resist discriminatory pricing methods, travelers should try and use various devices to see if they get better prices online. With the eBlocker, it works very easy and independent of the device; you can actually cloak and emulate a variety of tools like PC, Mac, iPad and Android etc.

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