Hotel booking sites will be forced to make major changes after Britain’s competition watchdog found they routinely pressured sales, misled consumers over prices, and granted more importance to hotels that paid the most commissions.
The Autorité de la concurrence et des marchés is cracking down on websites such as Expedia, Booking.com and Hotels.com for practices that give a false impression of a hotel’s popularity, with allegations such as “one room remaining at this price ”and“ booked four times in the last 24 hours ”.
The CMA said pressure tactics used by six companies – which also include Trivago, ebookers and Agoda – could prevent customers from finding the best deals in practices that could constitute consumer law violations.
Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the regulator, said: “The CMA has taken enforcement action to end deceptive sales tactics, hidden fees and other practices in the online hotel reservation market. These were totally unacceptable.
“Six websites have already made a firm commitment not to engage in these practices. They are among the largest hotel reservation sites. The CMA will now do everything to ensure that the rest of the sector meets the same standards.
Websites have a September 1 deadline to make changes or deal with other action. Not all companies have engaged in all of the questionable practices, but all have agreed to abide by all of the principles set out by the CMA.
The CMA launched its survey in October 2017, saying that with 70% of people searching for hotels using booking sites, consumers need to be sure they’re getting the best deal.
Rory Boland, editor of consumer group Which ?, said: “We have repeatedly exposed sites like these for using questionable tactics such as pressure selling, sneaky fees, questionable offers and claims of remission, so it is quite true that the CMA is gaining strength. action.
“These changes must now be quickly implemented to put an end to these deceptive practices, so that customers can have confidence that the offers presented to them are really offers and that they are shown the total cost of their room at the hotel. advance when booking a hotel online. “
In the future, booking sites will need to make it clear how hotels are ranked – for example when the ranking is influenced by the amount of commissions received by the website – and include the total amount due in the overall cost, rather than hide additional costs until the end. of the reservation process.
Pressure selling tactics giving a false impression of room availability will also be prohibited. For example, sites might display a message that states other customers are viewing the same hotel, even though they are viewing on a different date.
AMC is also cracking down on misleading discount claims, for example by displaying a weekday rate as if it were discounted, when in reality it is being compared to a higher weekend rate.
Research conducted by whom? Prior to the launch of the official CMA investigation, examples of booking sites that appeared to mislead the public were discovered, including:
A room in a New York hotel, Row NYC, was advertised for £ 166. However, on clicking to book, once taxes and other fees were added, the price was £ 211, which is 27% more than the rate advertised in the title.
Expedia offered a rate of £ 37.29 for an overnight stay at the Alsisar Hotel in Jaipur, India. The price was said to have been reduced by £ 109, which seemed like a good deal, until the hotel’s website said the price for the same night was actually £ 34.35.
In a promotional email, Hotels.com announced a deal for an overnight stay at London’s luxury hotel 45 Park Lane for £ 388. However, the lowest available price for any date that could be found on the booking site was £ 488.
There was no way to verify push prompts that claim a specific number of people are viewing the same hotel or are viewing the same dates.