Should it cost you more to hire a car online depending on the country you live in? Or how about booking tickets to a visitor attraction such as Disneyland – should your home nation be a factor in the price you pay?
Last summer, the European Commission (EC) wrote to several car hire firms to demand they stop what it called discriminatory pricing practices.
It acted after regularly getting complaints from people who couldn’t get the cheapest price when booking online within the European Union because of where they lived.
The EC found that prices varied for some drivers even when picking up the same car, from the same place, at the same time, from the same car hire firm.
This appears to go against EU laws that say that ‘service recipients may not be discriminated against on the basis of nationality or residence unless there are objectively justified reasons to apply different conditions of access to their services.’
Things seem to have gotten better in the car rental business. But the same issues seem to be cropping up with other products and services sold online.
The EC is considering introducing legislation against restrictions on so-called geoblocking practices – restrictions on price and what you can buy online based on where you live.
British families charged more
Back in 2012, we reported on how British families were charged 62% more than French families to go to Disneyland Paris. It seems such variations may still be happening.
Marc Tarabella, a Belgian Member of the European Parliament (MEP), has looked at the price of a two-night stay at Disneyland Paris for more than a year. Prices varied from €865 for a Belgian or French family, to €1,114 for a Spanish family, €1,272 for a German family and €1,339 for an Italian family.
Disneyland explains that discounts can vary from country to country, according to school holiday periods, national holidays and people’s’ willingness to book longer stays.
But Tarabella said that such variations still exist over Christmas and summer, when many European consumers are on holiday at the same time.
Would we lose out under changes?
Our research into geoblocking showed that UK consumers are sometimes paying less than other European consumers – so we could lose out if territorial pricing is ended. Other studies have shown that this type of price flexibility can contribute to competition between firms and keep prices low.
It’s understandable that prices vary from country to country depending on tax, demand, etc. But if you’re buying a product or service that is provided in one place, should you pay a price that varies because of where you live?
Do you think these pricing practices are fair? Have you seen examples? What would you think if more uniform prices across Europe mean British consumers pay more for some products and services?