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Hotel booking sites forced to end misleading sales

Eleanor Newis
Feb 6, 2019

Hotel booking sites will be ordered to make some major changes after the British competition watchdog found that they have been routinely using pressure selling and misled consumers over prices.

They have also given more prominence on their websites to the hotels that paid the most commission.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is cracking down on these websites — which include Expedia, and Hotels — after discovering they were giving false impressions of a hotel’s popularity. They made claims such as ‘booked four times in the last 24 hours’ and ‘one room left at this price’ to lure customers in.

The CMA said that the pressure these six firms exerted could stop customers from finding the best holiday deals, and amount to breaches of consumer laws.

The regulator’s chairman, Andrew Tyrie, said: ‘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 wholly unacceptable.

‘Six websites have already given firm undertakings not to engage in these practices. They are some of the largest hotel booking sites. The CMA will now do whatever it can to ensure that the rest of the sector meets the same standards.’

The websites in question have been given the deadline of 1st September to make the changes or face further consequences from the CMA. Not all these firms are engaged in suspicious practices but all have said they will abide by the rules set out by the CMA.

This investigation was launched originally in October 2017, as the regulator said that with 70% of people researching hotels using booking sites, consumers needed to be confident that they were seeing the best prices.

Booking sites will now be made to reveal exactly how hotels are ranked — for example, if this is influenced by the amount of commission received from them — and include the total amount of the headline cost of the hotel. This means no more hidden costs for consumers.

There will also be a clamp down on pressure selling tactics, such as sites flashing messages to customers telling them that other people are looking at a hotel — even though other people might be looking for different dates.

Added to this, the CMA will discipline misleading discount claims, such as displaying a weekday rate if it is discounted, when really it is being compared to higher weekend room rates.

This is good news for customers as these websites have been getting away with misleading consumers for far too long. Until these measures come into play, you should be vigilant when looking for hotel bookings, and make sure you get adequate travel insurance so you’re protected if anything goes wrong.

You can find the right travel insurance deal for you using a price comparison tool like A Spokesman Said. This will help you make sure you don’t lose any money if a hotel booking falls through or otherwise goes wrong, and save you some stress as well as cash.

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