London - No holiday would be complete without a scoot through duty free at the airport before you fly, picking up your favourite perfume or a bottle of bubbly to enjoy on a balmy evening at the hotel.
After all, there are some real bargains t o be found there … or are there?
In fact, the prices of many products in the duty-free shopping areas are inflated, often costing nearly double and sometimes three times as much as elsewhere.
For while retailers have to compete with their nearby rivals, airport duty-free shops feel no pressure to reduce prices.
And then there’s the phrase “duty free”, which implies that items are exempt from the payment of national taxes — on the understanding that those who are buying them are taking them out of the country.
But if you’re travelling within the EU, there is no tax saving on these items.
“People going on holiday are a captive market and the duty-free shopowners know this,” says Nick Harris, a leading travel law expert at Simpson Millar Solicitors.
“They prey on people’s impulse to buy products believing they are getting a greatdeal.”
Not every product in duty free costs more than it should, though. If you know what to look for, there are still some bargains. Best buys tend to be jewellery and cosmetics, which are sold direct from the manufacturer, so can’t be undercut online or in stores.
Nick Harris urges holidaymakers: “Before you part with your money, get out your smartphone and check the price on Google, Mysupermarket.co.uk or Amazon and see if it really is the bargain it claims to be.”
A spokesperson for World Duty Free, which runs the duty-free shops at the UK’s major airports, says: “We do not claim we can always beat online retailers or special offers.
“But we sell more than 10 000 products across a wide range, offering consistent savings throughout the year.”