Abta’s code of conduct committee has imposed fines of up to £5,000 on 11 members charged last week with displaying misleading prices.
One tour operator immediately demanded tougher action. Balkan Holidays managing director Alexander Stoyanov said: “If the fines were £100,000, they’d still be a drop in the ocean for big companies.”
The fines varied and some of the 11 received reprimands, but Abta confirmed penalties of up to £5,000 had been imposed while refusing to give details pending any appeals.
TUI sales director Derek Jones said: “We appeared for a small technical breach on our website and it will be fixed.” First Choice Holidays said: “Systems constraints mean we have not yet been able to include all fixed, non-optional extras in live pricing.” It said it would comply by July 31.
Federation of Tour Operators director-general Andy Cooper described £5,000 as “a hefty fine”. However, Stoyanov said: “Tour operators have had plenty of notice.”
Abta and the Office of Fair Trading warned in February that companies had three months to include fixed, non-optional costs in basic prices, and set a deadline of May 9.
The code of conduct committee will meet again in July, when Abta head of legal affairs Simon Bunce expects other members to appear. He said: “We continue to monitor price indications and contact members who are not doing as we would like.”
Chris Photi, a partner at accountancy White Hart Associates queried why the OFT has yet to act, said: “A £5,000 fine is nothing compared to the amount of money firms have made from being allowed to do this.”
Air Transport Users Council chief executive Simon Evans said of the low-cost airlines: “We want fully-inclusive pricing on the first booking screen. We are frustrated by the lack of process.”
An OFT spokesman said: “We continue to monitor the situation.”
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