Business

Hidden fees and fake reviews for online shoppers to be banned

Unavoidable hidden charges for online consumers, a practice known as drip pricing, is to be banned under a wider transparency drive.

The Department for Business and Trade (DBT) said additional fees, which are only revealed late in the checkout process and cost customers £2.2bn a year, must be included in the headline price under the planned Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill.

The measure will affect things like tickets for trains and the cinema but not optional fees, such as airline seat and luggage upgrades.

The crackdown will also see fake reviews added to a list of banned business practices, with website hosts to be accountable for information on their pages.

New rules on grocery pricing also aim to make costs clearer for shoppers.

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The proposals cover so-called unit pricing, the cost per kilo for example, which would have to be consistently displayed across ranges including discounted items to give shoppers an informed choice on whether they are getting the best deal.

They build on the work of consumer groups and, latterly, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

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Kevin Hollinrake, the minister for enterprise, markets and small business, said: “From supermarket shelves to digital baskets, modern day shopping provides customers with more choice than ever before. But with that comes the increased risk of confusion, scams and traps that can easily cost the public more than they had planned.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates the clear steps we’re taking as a government to ensure customers can compare purchases with ease, aren’t duped by fake reviews, and have the sting of hidden fees taken away.”

Read more:
Drip pricing: Three psychological reasons we fall for the technique
Amazon and Google investigated over efforts to tackle fake reviews

A spokesperson for the CMA, which would be responsible for policing the changes, said: “It’s positive to see the government pushing ahead with changes to tackle behaviour that misleads shoppers or leaves them out of pocket – which includes accepting the CMA’s recommendations for clearer groceries pricing.

“Stronger laws and tools, including giving the CMA the power to fine companies for breaching consumer law under the DMCC Bill, will bolster the work we are already doing to protect consumers.”

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