Hotels, travel agencies, airlines, restaurants get consumer checks

Consumer investigators turned their attention to hotels, travel agencies and airlines in the latest sweep to check on how well the laws are being followed.

Some 51 percent of the 37 hotels checked failed to provide required information to consumers, said the Dirección de Apoyo al Consumidor of the economics ministry. They were in San José, Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago.

At travel agencies, the investigators checked invoices, tickets, contracts, signs, handouts and the information available on Web pages. In all there were 43 travel agencies and 12 airline offices visited in the metro area, said the consumer agency.

Some 60 percent of the travel agencies and 50 percent of the airlines were not consistent with the law, the agency said.

Some of the flaws included failing to include sales tax in prices on the Web pages or failing to include the cost of an exit tax on package prices. In most cases the taxes and exit fees were listed in tiny type on the Web pages but not included in the larger type that listed a price.

One agency was cited for not including information on its Web site in Spanish as well as English.

In all, 11 travel agencies failed to include the taxes on the prices they offered, said the agency. Others failed to explain restrictions on travel or to list the exchange rate if the price was advertised in dollars, the agency added.

Three airlines also were criticized for failing to include an exchange rate in offerings given in dollars.

There were 35 hotels and 22 restaurants that were checked. Inspectors visited 44 locations and checked 14 Web pages. They also said they checked menus, invoices, signs, handouts and information available on Web pages.

Some 18 or 51 percent of the hotels had some type of problem, but only three (14 percent) of the restaurants did not comply fully with the law, the agency reported.

Restaurant operators are used to these types of sweeps.

The inspectors were not impressed with tiny print that included restrictions, such as the amount of sales tax or the age below which children are not charged. One restaurant did not include prices on its menu, and there also were problems with others in failing to provide an exchange rate if the price were quoted in something other than colons.

The biggest failing that was reported from 11 hotels was not specifying what type of room would be provided for a particular price.

The investigators also check newspaper ads for similar requirements.

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