TRANSPORT companies do not use IP tracking to increase fares for people who return to sites to check prices for a route, the data protection agency Cnil and anti-consumer fraud agency DGCCRF have ruled after a six-month investigation.
However, they say that even if they are not using the computer’s IP address – the users’ private connection to the internet – they are using other techniques to “modulate prices” that need further investigation to see if they are misusing personal data.
Cnil and DGCCRF identified certain practices that led to significant variations in price. These include “yield management” that changed the fare depending on the number of seats left or the date booked, plus the use of variable booking fees that changed with the time the passenger was checking the fare. The company set “off-peak hours” for cheaper tickets.
“Cookies” left by visits to other websites gave information for companies to use to set prices. The DGCCRF said that passengers who went to a booking site after checking prices on a comparison website may see cheaper fares but booking fees would rise so there was no real saving.
French MEP Françoise Castex, who raised the problem, denounced the agencies for not “lifting the veil on obscure web pricing practices of transport operators”.
The Gers MEP then joined the large majority who voted in the European Parliament for an EU investigation into “the growing number of complaints from passengers buying tickets online who say they had been victims of IP tracking”.
She said the vote was “proof consumers are not paranoid and that the IP tracking row was not just a French preoccupation”.
Ms Castex called on the EU Commission to “protect the millions of consumers who were victims of spying, notably through their browsing history.”
Have you noticed variations in fares dependent on the time of day that you book? Tell us at news[at]connexionfrance.com