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Travel websites under fire for misleading consumers. Image: Ditty_about_summer/Shutterstock

Australia’s consumer watchdog is living up to its promise to crackdown on misleading travel websites, launching two separate proceedings against two online sellers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission [ACCC] announced in February it would investigate companies involved with ‘drip pricing’ – the practice of promoting cheap deals but hiding booking fees and other charges until the final stages of purchase.

The first two casualties come from the airline industry – Jetstar Airways and Virgin Australia. However, an ACCC spokesperson told Cruise Passenger investigations are still ongoing and certainly didn’t rule out online cruise sellers from being part of the crackdown.

While the ACCC never reals who it is investigating, the proliferation of online cruise sites means it is likely they will be in the organisation’s crosshairs.

“Drip pricing practices… have the potential to cause both competition and consumer detriment,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

“Not only can this practice lead to consumers potentially being misled, it may also make it difficult for businesses with more transparent pricing practices to compete on a level playing field.”

The ACCC’s first two casualties were revealed last week, with allegations that the two companies were engaged in misleading conduct and made false or misleading representations in relation to particular airfares.

The ACCC said fees “should have been disclosed upfront and prominently with or within headline prices”.

Jetstar’s proceeding is held for 6 August and Virgin on 13 August.

The ACCC is seeking pecuniary penalties, declarations, injunctions, corrective advertising and costs against each airline.