Digital Minister Margot James blasted their “temerity” for using online tools that ripped customers off.

She confirmed authorities were now looking at cracking down on the practice of using algorithms to recognise family names on booking sites.

The practice costs travellers around £400m extra per year.

Ms James said the new Institute for Data Ethics and Innovation would launch a probe into airlines who use the algorithms.

She told the Commons Communications Committee: “In the aviation sector, algorithms are employed in terms of allocating seats on aircraft and with some airlines they’ve set an algorithm to identify passengers with the same surname travelling together.

“They’ve had the temerity to split the passengers up around the plane and when the family want to travel together they are then charged more.

“That is an example of a very cynical exploitative means of deploying algorithms to hoodwink the general public, which I trust the CMA and the new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation are I trust going to get on top of.”

She also revealed some energy and telecoms firms were pushing up tariffs for people who they considered unlikely to switch.

She said the Government would be looking at curbs to tackle problem online gambling in an upcoming White Paper.

She added: “We are looking at online gambling indeed.

“We recognise that the online environment can exacerbate somebody’s gambling instincts and there are areas where gambling is introduced perhaps where perhaps it wouldn’t have occurred before.

“All of these things conspire to create a bigger problem which we are definitely addressing as part of the development of the white paper.”

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