The biggest penalty was for volagratis.it, which was fined €2.2 million for five commercial practices judged to impinge on consumers’ legal rights.
The website is owned by the lastminute.com group, whose Italian site (it.lastminute.com) was also fined. The other sites sanctioned were opodo.it, govolo.it and edreams.it, all part of the Opodo group, and the Finnish-owned gotogate.it.
Chief among the practices that Italy’s competition watchdog objected to was charging customers a fee to pay with certain types of credit card, which the regulator said “hampers the development of e-commerce and imposes a transaction cost that consumers cannot avoid, unless they chooses a less convenient form of purchase and payment”.
The regulator also denounced sites for making customer service phone lines premium rate, failing to provide an email address for clients to contact, and not giving full details about who is actually providing the services booked online.
It opened its investigation after receiving complaints from consumer groups, as well as evidence gathered in an EU-wide probe into travel websites in 2016.
Italy’s antitrust authority has previously fined eDreams, Opodo Italia and Expedia for luring customers with misleading promotions and failing to manage complaints properly, among other things.