Hotel booking sites forced to end misleading sales tactics

Lloyd Doyle
February 8, 2019

After a thorough examination found their practices to be deceptive, six hotel booking businesses are being pressured to change.

Search results: more clarity on the ranking of hotels, for instance by publishing when hotels have been pushed up rankings through commission paid to the site.

The CMA took action a year ago 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.

Rory Boland, the travel editor at the consumer group Which?, said: "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".

The advice comes as Expedia,, Agoda,, ebookers and trivago are investigated over misleading discount claims.

The regulator singled out six companies - Expedia,, Agoda,, ebookers and Trivago - for co-operating with their investigation and agreeing to fully comply with the CMA's recommendations, while stressing that none of those practices were necessarily specifically happening at any of the companies mentioned. If their sites disclose that other customers are looking at booking the same establishment, it should add that the customers could be considering booking a stay at the property for different days or months. For example, some sites were comparing a higher weekend room rate with a weekday rate or comparing the price of a luxury suite with a standard room. These have been wholly unacceptable.

Hidden charges: Displaying all compulsory charges such as taxes, booking or resort fees in the headline price.

"Six websites have already given firm undertakings not to engage in these practices".

The CMA also expects these sites to make necessary changes by 1 September.

"The Competition Bureau encourages the online hotel booking platforms to review their marketing practices and ensure that they provide upfront, clear and accurate information to consumers", Bureau spokesperson Jayme Albert said. Nowadays neither tourists nor travellers know quite how much they are being manipulated by unscrupulous hotel booking platforms.

All sites must make the changes by September 1, including those not directly part of the investigation. Not all firms engaged in all of the dubious practices but all have agreed to abide by all the principles set out by the CMA.

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. The CMA warned it will take further enforcement action if it finds evidence of others breaking the law.

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