Published: Fri, February 08, 2019
Economy | By

OTAs to make major changes after probe into "misleading sales tactics"

OTAs to make major changes after probe into

To not give a false impression of a hotel's popularity to rush customers into making a booking.

The CMA took action previous year because it was concerned that practices such as giving a false impression of a room's popularity or not displaying the full cost of a room upfront could mislead people, stop them finding the best deal and potentially break consumer protection law. Some sites were also placing sold-out hotels within search results to put pressure on people to book more quickly. Sites have now committed not to do this.

Since launching a 14-month investigation in 2017, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), a government watchdog whose objective is to "promote competition for the benefit of consumers, both within and outside the UK" and "make markets work well for consumers, businesses and the economy" is coming down on Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, ebookers, Agoda, and trivago.

Discount claims: more clarity on discounts and only promoting discounts that are actually available at the time the holidaymaker wants to purchase.

By discount claims, it is referring to the practice where a website will try to illustrate a sale price by comparing it to a regular price that isn't relevant, such as being on different dates, or a different room type. The regulator found examples of discount claims that were being compared with other products that were not like for like, such as comparing a weekend room rate to a weekday room rate, or a luxury room rate to a standard room.

Hidden charges: all compulsory charges such as taxes, booking or resort fees must be included in the headline price. "These have been wholly unacceptable", said CMA Chairman, Andrew Tyrie.


"Not all firms engaged in all of the practices cited above, but all have nonetheless agreed to abide by all the principles set out in the undertakings", the CMA said.

The CMA said it will "do whatever it can" to bring the rest of the online hotel booking sector up to the same standard. Nowadays neither tourists nor travellers know quite how much they are being manipulated by unscrupulous hotel booking platforms.

The CMA said the pressure tactics used by six firms - which also include Trivago, ebookers and Agoda - could prevent customers finding the best deals in practices that could amount to breaches of consumer law.

These changes must be made by 1 September and the CMA will then monitor compliance.

Britain's consumer watchdog has struck a deal with some of the world's most popular online travel booking websites, getting them to be more transparent about hidden fees and stop implying certain hotels are in danger of being booked solid. If it finds sufficient evidence that others could be breaking consumer protection law, it will consider taking further enforcement action.

All sites must make the changes by September 1, including those not directly part of the investigation.

Like this: