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Watchdog crackdown on ticket booking fee 'drip pricing'

The consumer watchdog is targeting companies that use incremental booking fees on online purchases such as air fares and event tickets in its crackdown on 'drip pricing'.

Drip pricing involves the gradual disclosure of fees and charges over an online booking process. It is a common feature of online purchases, particularly airline tickets.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said action would be taken on the practice, which caused ''competition and consumer detriment''.

''Consumers see a 'headline' price advertised at the beginning of the booking process but when they progress to the payment phase, additional fees and charges have been added,'' he said.

''Consumers purchasing airfares or sporting event tickets are all too familiar with this practice. [It] involves a lack of transparency which may mislead consumers, and it can also make it difficult for businesses to compete on a level playing field.''

Mr Sims comments are to be delivered in a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) on Friday about the regulator's key focuses for 2014.


The regulator said comparator websites that mislead consumers, as well as large companies that pose as small businesses would also be targets for action.

''This year we will be particularly interested in representations, including marketing and labelling, that portray large manufacturers as small niche businesses,'' Mr Sims said.

''This type of behaviour has the potential to mislead consumers, particularly those who prefer to support Australia's small business community.''

Mr Sims also said the commission had recently received further complaints about shopper docket discounts by Coles and Woolworths that exceeded the cap of four cents per litre.

The ACCC had used enforceable undertakings with the two retailers to stop fuel saving offers which are wholly or partially funded by any part of their business other than fuel retailing.

''This is of serious concern to the ACCC and we are currently examining if the current offers comply with the Court enforceable undertakings,'' he said.