Its name: ‘RL 2011/83’. Its goal: transparency. Its outcome: a completely revised pricing policy for all e-commerce websites. This new directive is in force since May 2014, but companies are given some extra time to make the necessary adjustments. Ardennes-Etape took on this occasion to become the first company in holiday home rental with a 100 percent transparent pricing policy.
What does the law say?
As consumers we all have been confronted with nasty surprises after booking a flight or holiday residence online. Almost systematically the final price will be significantly higher than the price initially shown. We click ‘book now’ and then it starts: luggage, energy charges, various taxes being added and rendering the final price a lot less attractive. Cheap on first sight, but expensive in the end.
With the European directive RL 2011/83, aimed at all e-commerce websites without exception, the legislator wants to avoid situations like these in the future. The idea is quite simple: the shown price must be equal to the final amount to be paid by the consumer. In other words, each form of publicity or promotion must inform the consumer on the total final amount to be paid, including all additional obligatory charges and possible extra supplements to be paid on site.
Obvious, you might think? Well, not exactly… The directive comes down to a serious challenge in the tourism industry.
“For the holiday-makers this kind of transparency is self-evident, but it means a small revolution in the industry”, says Valérie Geron, manager of communications and marketing at Ardennes-Etape. “The information needed to meet these requirements just wasn’t available. We didn’t want to just comply with the legal requirements, but instead act in accordance with the intent of the directive, meaning: optimal consumer protection.”
Renting a holiday home implies some extra charges, such as for the use of water, electricity, heating, etc. Holiday home owners prefer to work with a flat-rate for these charges or to calculate the amount due based on consumption and market price. Energy prices used to be left out of the total amount but mentioned as an extra obligatory charge, making it difficult for the future holiday-maker to compare similar houses. The extra obligatory fees imply that the final price might be significantly higher than was initially the case.
And this is where the European directive comes into play. Ardennes-Etape enthusiastically took on this opportunity to make life a lot easier for the holiday-maker instead of, like many in the industry, making use of the many exceptions adopted in the legislation.
Chapter 3, article 6, paragraph E of the European directive states: if the final price cannot be exactly predicted, it suffices to disclose the mode of calculation. (Source)
Energy charges based on use and market price are, by definition, impossible to determine in advance. It would have been easy to just disclose the mode of calculation, but this was not enough for Ardennes-Etape.
“We wanted to meet the needs of our holiday-makers. If you book a holiday home for sixteen people and you know one kWh of electricity costs 0.22 euro during the day and 0.18 euro at night-time, you still don’t know exactly what the final amount is going to be. One cannot just assume one’s own private consumption and add the extra people to the equation. We sought to avoid the holiday-maker plunging himself in an Excel spreadsheet or spending one hour using a calculator. The goal is to make life easier for everyone”, adds Valérie Geron.
On the other hand Ardennes-Etape wants to continue its flexible relationship with the holiday home owners and his or her preferred working method. It therefore does not unilaterally impose the flat-rate method for energy charges. The solution: a tool to collect all necessary information.
All holiday home owners have been invited to enter, for a few months, their meter information in the online tool for each type of stay in their holiday home. Collection and analysis of this information permit to generate a very accurate estimate for the charges to be included in the final price and shown on Ardennes-Etape’s website. This estimate is for information purposes only – charges will eventually be settled based on consumption and market price – but its accuracy ensures the final amount due will not differ widely from the initially shown price.
A survey among the website’s visitors shows the enthusiasm for complete transparency:
How do you experience the mention of the total price?
52.38% = relatively clear; 44.76% = very clear
How do you experience the mention of the estimate of charges?
57,94% = relatively clear; 33,64% = very clear
How does the mention of the total price help you in choosing the best holiday home?
44.08% = 9 and 10/10; 40.76% = 7 and 8/10
New ‘responsive’ website
Service for the consumer means simplicity and user-friendliness. Together with the revised pricing policy Ardennes-Etape launched its completely new website in accordance with the principle of ‘responsive design’. A ‘responsive’ website adapts itself to every screen size, whether the visitor is using a smartphone, tablet or computer. Officially released on 28 October 2014, www.Ardennes-Etape.be has already been labelled ‘Mobile Friendly’ by Google.
An optimised website, easy navigation and a 100 percent transparency: it’s a true added value for the customer.
“We surf the internet on the bus, the metro, in the doctor’s office waiting room,… This was the perfect moment to vastly improve the browsing experience of over one third of our visitors”, explains Olivier Pirnay, one of the web designers responsible for the new website.
Transparent pricing, a ‘responsive’ website, a data collection tool to refine the estimate of charges… Ardennes-Etape continues on the road of innovation to make sure its maxim “Que du Bonheur” (100% happiness) becomes reality!
Would you like more information or an interview with marketing manager Valérie Geron? Give us a call at 080 29 24 00 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org