Why discount holiday vouchers don't always provide the bargains you're expecting

If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

We all love a bargain and websites which make a business out of offering us cut-price deals on everything from beauty treatments to bungee jumping know that all too well.

After all, who can resist the idea of getting a few pounds knocked off - especially when it comes to high-price ticket items, such as holidays and weekend breaks?

However, a recent Which? investigation has found that a third of holidays advertised on the UK’s three biggest discount vouchers sites - Groupon, Wowcher and LivingSocial - are not all they’re cracked up to be.

Some websites are advertising low prices that no longer exist, along with holidays that can’t be booked.

Worse, some of the deals weren’t even in the places advertised. That’s bad news for consumers - and bad news for these discount sites too which rely on high levels of customer satisfaction and word of mouth to keep people signing up.

Our researchers found six deals on the three sites and contacted the respective travel agents given by the sites to check prices and availability.

Some were no longer available despite still being advertised, and in other cases additional supplements were regularly being charged - indeed with one Groupon deal we were asked for another £200 per person to book a holiday we thought we’d paid for.

One of the worst deals was a two-night, five-star spa break in Lisbon advertised on Living Social for £99 per person - but our researchers discovered that there was no spa, the hotel was 15 miles outside Lisbon and they still wanted an extra £30 supplement.

Another deal on Groupon was advertised as being in Venice when in fact it was miles away on mainland Italy.

It is really easy to think that voucher sites are offering great deals - we all can get sucked in, but the old maxim of “if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is” generally applies.

This sector really needs to up its game and only offer genuine deals which customers can book - and it certainly should not be advertising false information about where holidays and hotels are really situated.

* Remember to email me your consumer questions askalex@which.co.uk

When we asked Which? members about using vouchers sites, almost half of the 1730 surveyed said they’d had problems.

And we also found that people were receiving inaccurate information from the travel agents when finding out a deal is no longer available.

They weren’t being told that the could get a refund on unredeemed vouchers.

Wowcher (which owns LivingSocial) has said it will investigate our findings, while Groupon will raise them with the travel agents it works with, however we’re reporting all our findings to Trading Standards.