This situation has been known for some time and it has taken UK authorities to take the major lead. Australian authorities have taken Trivago to task – which is of course owned by Expedia J, so impartiality is not real with that site.
Some of the world’s biggest online travel sites have agreed to alter the way they present data to consumers during the booking process after Britain’s consumer watchdog found some guilty of misleading sales strategies.
The Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) probe was prompted by concerns that tactics like pressure selling, deceptive discount claims and hidden charges could mislead consumers and possibly break consumer protection law.
With this in mind, the six booking sites investigated – Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers, Expedia and trivago – have agreed to adopt certain measures to become more transparent. These measures include:
Search results: Offering greater transparency in the ranking of properties, including disclosing which hotels pay a commission to the site Pressure selling: Being clearer about a hotel’s popularity, by being more precise about who is looking at a hotel for the same dates, or not including sold-out properties in search results
Discount claims: Only promoting deals and discounts that are valid at that time, and doing away with comparisons with irrelevant room rates (such as higher room categories and seasons) Hidden charges: Displaying all compulsory fees and taxes in the headline price. “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,” CMA Chairman Andrew Tyrie said.
“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.”
Changes must be implemented by 1 September 2019.
Australian booking sites have long used similar tactics to their UK counterparts such as pressure selling (such as telling you how many people are looking at the same results as you). These extend to airlines too, such as direct bookings with Jetstar.