‘Be up front about fees’ – ORR warns ticket firms

Warning shot: the Office of Rail and Road is concerned about booking fees from some online ticket retailers.

The Office of Rail and Road says third-party ticket retailers should make add-on fees clearer to users.

In a review of websites and mobile applications of 19 retailers, the ORR found 12 charged booking fees and that seven did not include their fees in the upfront price. Booking fees ranged from £0.45 (per ticket) to £6.45 (per transaction) with finders fees on split tickets between 10% and 15% of the savings made.

It also looked at 21 train operators, who are not permitted to charge ticket booking fees, although they can charge other fees such as postage costs for ticket delivery.

The regulator says it wants ticket retailers to ensure booking or finder’s fees are included within the upfront price, ensure a clear breakdown of the fee and ticket price are provided at every stage with 'appropriate prominence’ given to the fee’, and ensure consumers have access to readily available, transparent and accurate information about fees they can read before starting to book tickets.

In addition, the ORR has written to seven third-party retailers highlighting its concerns and asking for details on how they will address its findings. It says it will publish its letters and retailers’ responses on its website.

ORR Director of Strategy, Policy and Reform Stephanie Tobyn said: ‘Consumers can now purchase rail tickets from a wide variety of websites and apps. This report highlights that some online retailers are not as transparent as they need to be when it comes to how they display or provide information on additional fees.

‘We want to ensure consumers are provided with timely and relevant information when making purchase decisions and that drip pricing does not undermine consumer confidence when purchasing rail tickets online.’