Abta urges businesses to prepare for Digital Markets Bill

Legislation due to come into force next year will require businesses have policies and processes in place to detect and remove fake online reviews.

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill will create a series of offences in relation to fake reviews.

These include submitting a fake review, offering or adding a fake review, and commissioning or soliciting a fake review, as well as misrepresenting reviews, or publishing a review without taking “reasonable and proportionate” steps to remove fake reviews and prevent consumers encountering such reviews.

Abta senior solicitor Paula Macfarlane told the association’s recent Travel Regulations Conference: “It’s something businesses need to be aware of. The government has said traders can incentivise reviews but can’t incentivise them to be good reviews.

“Abta is behind a lot of the proposals, but we need to make sure they are not onerous.”

The Bill gives the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) new enforcement powers enabling it to rule on breaches of consumer law and impose fines of up to £300,000 or 10% of a company’s global annual turnover.

The government also plans to outlaw ‘drip pricing’ by airlines and travel companies by adding restrictions to the Bill.

Legislation to tackle drip pricing, “where firms only advertise part of a product’s price upfront and reveal other charges later in the buying process”, were announced in the King’s Speech.

But Macfarlane told the conference: “Isn’t this already dealt with in law? Stating a price that isn’t the final price is [already] misleading. If a compulsory charge is not included, it’s misleading. But optional extras don’t have to be included in the base price.”

She described the government proposal as “overly negative” and said: “I’m not convinced our sector is so bad. There are other sectors much worse.

“Optional extras are allowed and provide choice and keep the base price down. They aren’t necessarily hidden fees. I don’t believe more law is required in this area.”

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