Sunday, 21 October, 2018


Competition watchdog probes high-pressure tactics of hotel booking sites

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Hotel booking websites face an investigation Fill 1 Hotel booking websites face an investigation
Conrad Doyle | 27 October, 2017, 17:20

Hotel booking websites are being investigated by the competition watchdog over concerns they could be misleading customers.

The CMA will examine practices such as how hotels are ranked after a customer has made a search - and to whether this is influenced by a commission paid by the hotel.

It also has concerns over pressure selling, and whether sites create a false impression of having limited room availability to rush customers into making a booking decision.

Discount claims will also be under the spotlight, as the CMA wants to know if sites are wrongly basing discounts on higher prices that were only available for a brief period, or are not relevant to the customer's search criteria.

Hidden costs such as tax and booking fees will be explored, as well as discount claims on the sites to see if fair comparisons are given and sites don't compare higher weekend rates with weekday rates. If you use these sites and want to share your experiences you need to email the CMA by 15 December (there's more information about how it will use your response here).

He says he tends to contact the hotel direct, to see if they will match the online rate and "perhaps provide a bonus such as a welcome drink or a free breakfast into the bargain".

Commenting on the investigation, ABTA said it has always advocated price transparency and providing accurate information for consumers.

About 70 per cent of people who shopped around for hotels a year ago did so online, the watchdog said, acknowledging that it helped people find good deals quickly.

If the CMA finds any wrongdoing, it can take enforcement action. In todays increasingly busy world, sites like this offer real potential to help holiday-makers save time and money searching for their ideal get-away.

The CMA said consumers needed to be confident they were getting the best deal.

The Competition and Markets Authority is concerned that rather than helping consumers, the sites might actually be making it more hard for them.

"The law requires companies to include all non-optional charges in their headline price so that customers are not hit with unexpected charges", it said.

The Competition and Markets Authority is looking into whether price comparison and booking sites are breaking consumer laws and stopping people from finding the best deals.

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