International Journal of Tourism, Travel and Hospitality Law 2023

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF TOURISM, TRAVEL AND HOSPITALITY LAW services is taken on by a natural person who does not offer the services in the capacity of a trader, but in the capacity of a private person.27 In such circumstances, the model of fulfilling the transparency requirements and information duties of platform operators is extremely important. The protection of consumers, as recipients of tourism services offered by online platforms, can be efficient only if consumers are really in a position to make free and informed decisions on the selection of tourism services based on accurate, consistent, clear and comprehensible information and on a transparent ranking of services based on genuine, fair and sincere reviews. Platforms are expected to provide, in a transparent manner, a lot of information not only on the offered service but also on many other facts of importance for proper understanding of the data received from other users and posted on a platform. Behavioural studies dealing with the problem of transparency of online platforms, advertising and marketing practices in travel booking websites and online consumer reviews in the hotel sector show that, in practice, there is a whole range of problems connected with the transparency of information offered to consumers via platforms. These studies also show that the consumers using platforms, because of insufficient information, are unaware and unconcerned of the risks of unfair practices and misleading information.28 The awareness of consumers of platform practices related to search results is generally low.29 They are often unaware of identity of the party with whom they are entering into a contract. In particular, they are not even aware of whether the other contractual party is a trader or a natural person (a consumer) and how this is reflected on their rights, i.e. that they may not enjoy any consumer protection.30 Frequently, consumers believe that the contract is entered into with the platform operator in the capacity of a seller or a service provider.31 Non-transparent information may lead to the lack of confidence of consumers in the ranking and reviews of the offered tourism services. 32 This 27 See: Study, 2020, pp. 20, 21. 28 See: European Commission: Behavioural study on the transparency of online platforms, Final Report, 2018, p.5 (hereinafter: Study/Final report/2018). See Busch (2016), p. 228. 29 Ibid, p. 19. 30 Ibid, p. 28. 31 Ibid, p. 52. 32 On the reasons for the lack of reliability of ratings and reviews, see Narciso, M. (2022a), pp. 351-353.