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Third-Party Hotel Booking Sites May Mislead Consumers

The Reservation Counter logo appears on every page of its websites, Nelson said, and all information is transparent and clear. But, he said, the world of online booking can be confusing, with an ever-changing inventory, a large number of online suppliers – some of which are rogue companies – and consumers who have levels of different comforts with Internet research.

And Cindy Estis Green, managing director of Kalibri Labs, which provides insights to the hospitality industry on online marketing and distribution, warned that the cost of a hotel room can vary widely depending on what’s on offer. and demand. Like airplane seats, how much a hotel room costs and whether full payment is required at the time of booking is constantly changing, she said.

But, Ms. Estis Green said, third-party booking sites often give consumers confusing and inadequate information about fares and restrictions.

“It may not be fraud, but it is absolutely consumer deception,” she said.

Bill McGee, travel and aviation consultant for Consumers Union, the policy and action division of Consumer Reports, said the details could indeed be somewhere on websites, but were often in lowercase or buried deep. in the fine print.
“We’re just very unhappy with the way things are being disclosed,” he said.

The Federal Trade Commission said it was not aware of any pending cases regarding this particular issue.

It’s not just the web that can be misleading. Ms Greenspan, who has worked in hospitality for 25 years and taught a hospitality course at Cornell University, said she called what she thought was an 800 number for Marriott. “I was transferred to the reservations center and kept asking if it was a Marriott,” she said. “I was told, ‘I can book you a room for Marriott.’ ”

She didn’t realize she was talking to a hotel call center. com, owned by Expedia; she found out when she called the hotel to cancel the reservation.