In the U.K., the Competition and Markets Authority has started enforcing major changes to the biggest hotel booking sites over concerns about misleading customers.
Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers and trivago were all investigated over practices like giving a false impression of a room’s popularity.
All the companies volunteered to work with the CMA and came to an agreement.
Search results will now clearly show when results have been affected by commissions paid to the site.
The companies have agreed to no longer give false impressions of availability or popularity or rushing customers into making decisions based on incomplete information. An example of this that was highlighted by the CMA iswhen customers are warned that other people are looking at the same hotel, even though the customers may not be looking at the same room or dates. Another example found was some of the sites strategically placing sold out hotels within search results to pressure people in buying.
Additionally, the websites have been asked to be more upfront about discounts and only promote deals that are available at the time. Previously sites had been found comparing discounted room prices to hotels outside of the customer’s relevant search criteria.
“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 unacceptable,” said Andrew Tyrie, chairman, CMA.
“Six websites have already given firm undertaking not to engage in these practices. They are some of the largest hotel sites. The CMA will now do whatever it can ensure that the rest of the sector meets the same standards.”