Expedia.com last week unveiled a number of initiatives that the Bellevue online travel service said will set "a new industry standard for empowering consumers in booking travel."

Among those was a "Best Price Guarantee," which offered customers a $50 travel coupon if they found a cheaper flight, cruise, car rental or vacation package on another online provider.

However, the press release included a footnote about airfares -- saying that the competing airfares must be at least $6 cheaper. That means a consumer who found a $500 flight on Expedia would not be eligible for the coupon if they discovered the same flight on Alaska Airlines or Travelocity for $495.

Kayak.com Chief Executive Steve Hafner, whose Norwalk, Conn.-based startup allows consumers to search the Internet for cheap airline fares, seized on that issue last week, calling the number of exceptions in Expedia's guarantee "laughable."

"What Expedia is really telling consumers is that if you don't count their markup (the booking fee), their prices are just as cheap. But only for the airlines they show," he said in an e-mailed statement. "So consumers who find a cheap JetBlue fare are out of luck, because Expedia does not search JetBlue. Also out of luck: a family of four who don't want to pay $20 in Expedia booking fees. Imagine if Whole Foods offered a similar guarantee vs. Stop&Shop? If you don't count our profits, our milk is just as cheap!"

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