Watchdog on patrol: hotel websites under probation
The watchdog says 70% of people who shop for accommodation use hotel booking sites. When the competition and markets authority had a deeper look at those websites, they discovered what really influences the order of hotels shown and its not just the costumers preference, it’s by commission and commercial considerations, Laura Finkler reports
The CMA is concerned that rather than helping consumers, the sites might actually be making it more difficult for them. The concerning factors include the clarity, accuracy and presentation of information on hotel booking sites. The investigation will examine areas such as hidden charges, search results, and discount claims. Other concerns are the way sites display how many rooms are left, how many people are viewing a particular hotel and messages that claim to state the last time at which a similar room was booked. These mechanisms might be used for “pressure selling”, creating a “false impression of room availability or rush customers into making a booking decision”. The investigation follows a year-long CMA probe into price comparison sites.
Websites such as Expedia and Booking.com advertise easier and cheaper holidays but they’re currently under investigation for misleading their customers.
Hotels are paying anything up from 15% commision for more visibility. Simon Calder, travel expert of the Independent suggets to contact the hotel directly, 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.
In this moment in time there is no evidence for their accusations yet and the CMA are urging customers to get in touch and share their experiences. The investigation will end in spring 2018, but so far the CMA concluded that price comparison websites worked best for car insurance and worst for broadband.