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Train ticket retailers using drip pricing – regulator

Online train ticket retailers are using so-called drip pricing with booking fees of up to £6.45 per transaction, a regulator has found (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Online train ticket retailers are using so-called drip pricing with booking fees of up to £6.45 per transaction, a regulator has found (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Online train ticket retailers are using so-called drip pricing with booking fees of up to £6.45 per transaction, a regulator has found.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said the companies must ensure their booking or finder’s fees are included within upfront prices.

Drip pricing involves fees being added to advertised low prices.

The ORR reviewed the websites and apps of 19 third-party train ticket retailers.

The ORR reviewed the websites and apps of 19 third-party train ticket retailers.

Twelve were found to charge booking fees, and seven of these did not include this amount in the upfront price.

The ORR’s review found that booking fees ranged from 45p per ticket to £6.45 per transaction.

Finder’s fees were 10-15% of the saving made on split tickets, which involve purchasing multiple tickets for single journeys to cut the overall price.

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.”

The 12 retailers found to charge booking and/or finder’s fees were MyTrainTicket, Omio, Rail Europe, Railboard, Raileasy, Sojo, Split my fare, Train Hugger, Trainline, Trainpal, Trainsplit and TrainTickets.com.

Alex Robertson, chief executive at watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers should not be left in the dark about the cost of their ticket.

“Online retailers must provide passengers with clear, accurate information upfront so they can make an informed choice.”

A Department for Business and Trade consultation into price transparency, including drip pricing, closed in October.