Watchdog investigating hotel booking sites

The competition watchdog said it’s important that no one feels pressured by misleading statements into making a booking.

THE Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is launching enforcement action against a number of hotel booking sites which it believes may be breaking consumer protection law

As part of its ongoing investigation, which launched in October 2017, the UK’s competition watchdog has identified “widespread concerns” regarding the practices of various booking sites.

These include the way in which hotels are ranked – and if the amount of commission a hotel pays affects its ranking; whether pressure selling tactics – such as creating a false impression of room availability – are used to “rush” customers into making a booking decision; the accuracy of discount claims made by sites; and hidden charges, such as taxes or booking fees.

The CMA has sent warning letters “to a range of sites”, demanding they review their terms and practices to ensure they are fair and comply with consumer protection law.

Trade group UK Hospitality’s chief executive, Kate Nicholls, welcomed the announcement, stating that it “should bring some reassurance” for hoteliers and customers alike.

“The practices addressed here exposes yet another example of digital businesses stealing an unfair lead on honest, regulated operators whose first concern is to deliver good service to their customers,” said Nicholls.

“The CMA clearly intends to ensure that online booking sites are transparent and accurate, and that customers have complete peace of mind when booking.”

However, Nicholls added that both hoteliers and consumers “would be better served by a wider review of the business to platform relationship, which is now overdue”.