Disneyland Paris is charging hundreds of euros more to non-French speakers

Disney magic.
Disney magic.
Image: Reuters/Benoit Tessier
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In the land where dreams come true, it costs more to speak English.

Disneyland Paris, the only Disney park outside North America or Asia, is currently under investigation for charging European visitors more or less depending on where they come from, a practice that would violate rules set by the European Commission.

Prices on the Disneyland Paris website can vary wildly according to customers’ country of origin—according to Quartz’s own search on the site, a three-night stay in September at the theme park’s Hotel Cheyenne is likely to set a French person back about 630 euros ($692), a Spaniard about 760 euros ($835), and a Finn 1020 euros ($1120). At a whopping 846 pounds (about 1196 euros, or about $1320) British visitors would pay more than anyone else.

How does Disneyland Paris know where you are, and how much to charge? It’s nothing as sophisticated as IP address, credit card billing information, or cookies. The Disney pricing magic happens when you select the country and language in which to view their site. You can change it any time in a bar across the top of the site.

In an email to Quartz, Disneyland Paris explained that its ticket prices vary according to promotions based on national holidays and other holidaymaking factors in each country:

“Throughout the year we try to attract guests from different markets by offering market-specific ‘book-by’ promotions that can include discounts. Those promotions take into consideration factors specific to people in the local market, such as their school holiday calendar and booking patterns.”

But prices seem to have more to do with language than characteristics of different markets. Countries that search in the same language—Belgium and Luxembourg, for example—return the same prices, as do all countries that default to English-language searches: Greece, Bulgaria, and Croatia, for example. (Except, as noted above, the UK. Sorry mates.)

For now, the cheapest entrance to the Magic Kingdom can be obtained by clicking that you’re from France before buying your tickets. A representative from Disneyland Paris confirms this fairly easy work-around. When asked how the site determines what market each user is from (and therefore which price or promotion to apply), a representative responded, “The guest can select local country and language via the website when booking.”

If Disneyland Paris is found to have practiced discriminatory pricing against certain EU citizens, it could be taken to court. It is not the first American corporation to come under fire in recent days: a slew of film studios including Sony and Paramount Pictures are all being investigated by the European Commission for “geo-blocking,” or giving different access to different consumers according to location.