The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has made it clear it will employ enforcement action against booking websites in a bid to end misleading sales tactics, hidden charges and other questionable practices in the online hotel booking market. Deemed unacceptable by the CMA, CMA chairman Andrew Tyrie and likely all consumers who book their travel through online sites, these despicable practices must be put to a stop pronto.
For the uninitiated, the CMA launched a probe in 2018 to investigate if major online hotel booking sites like Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, trivago and ebookers had been giving false impressions to customers who use these platforms to book their travel. To its horror, the investigation revealed these allegations to be true though not every website engaged in these banned, dodgy practices. There was a huge uproar when it was revealed that trivago was guilty of misleading its customers.
While what's done cannot be undone, the above-mentioned six major hotel booking websites have given their word to not engage in any of such practices going forward to be fair to consumers. These sites have all signed off on a voluntary agreement. Further, the CMA has emphasized that it will do whatever it takes to ensure that the rest of the sector meets the same standards.
For those who are interested, the voluntary agreement which Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, trivago and ebookers have signed off on outlines the following actions these sites will execute henceforth:
- Display all charges of a hotel room in the headline price, including taxes and booking or resort fees
- Be entirely clear when they've distorted search results rankings of hotels based on the amount of commission the site receives from the hotel
- Cease ‘pressure selling' techniques intent on pressuring customers to hurry and make a booking before someone else does. For example, 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
- Stop comparing hotel discounts in misleading ways, such as by comparing low weekday rates with higher weekend room rates