The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a probe last year into six of the biggest online hotel booking sites, Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers and trivago over concerns that the websites were giving false impressions to customers.
The CMA’s investigation discovered this to be true.
CMA chairman, Andrew Tyrie, said: “The CMA has taken enforcement action to bring to an end misleading sales tactics, hidden charges and other practices in the online hotel booking market. These have been wholly unacceptable.”
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“Six websites have already given firm undertakings not to engage in these practices. They are some of the largest hotel booking sites. The CMA will now do whatever it can to ensure that the rest of the sector meets the same standards.”
The voluntary agreement that Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers and trivago signed off on, outlines that the sites will do the following henceforth:
1. Display all charges of a hotel room in the headline price, including taxes and booking or resort fees.
2. Be entirely clear when they’ve distorted search results rankings of hotels based on the amount of commission the site receives from the hotel.
3. Stop “pressure selling” techniques intent on pressuring customers to hurry and make a booking before someone else does. For instance, some sites made it seem like other customers were looking at the same hotel, but in reality, they were looking at the hotel under different dates.
4. Stop comparing hotel discounts in misleading ways, such as by comparing low weekday rates with higher weekend room rates.
Take note that the CMA found that not all six of the websites engaged in these banned practices, but by signing this agreement, the six websites are showing that they’ll take a step forward in the right direction for their customers.
Rory Boland, travel editor of consumer body Which?, told the Evening Standard: “We have repeatedly exposed sites like these for using dodgy tactics like pressure selling, sneaky charges, dodgy deals and discount claims so it’s absolutely right that the CMA is taking strong action.”
“These changes must now be swiftly implemented to stop these misleading practices, so customers can trust the deals they’re presented with are really deals and are told the total cost of their room upfront when booking a hotel online.”