EXPEDIA and trivago are among six online hotel booking sites forced to make major changes after an investigation by the competition watchdog.
Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com and ebookers were also investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) following ‘serious concerns’ over misleading sales tactics and hidden charges.
Changes include making search results clearer and ending practices that give a false impression of a hotel’s availability.
The websites must also make discount claims more transparent and display all compulsory charges. Andrew Tyrie, CMA chairman, said the enforcement action had been taken to tackle ‘wholly unacceptable’ practices in the online hotel booking market. The six sites have committed to the changes which must be made by September 1, the CMA said.
Research by Which? in December 2017 found that two nights at the Hotel Ares Eiffel in Paris were available for £404 through Expedia’s ‘flash sale’. A day after the sale ended, the same dates went up to £628, but a fortnight later were at £382 — £22 lower than the sale price.
Guy Anker, deputy editor of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: “It’s utterly ridiculous that you can’t always trust the first figure you’re shown when booking a hotel — something our 2018 investigation into this matter highlighted.
“It’s confusing for customers and makes doing a meaningful price comparison very hard.
“We’re glad a number of large firms have committed to being more transparent but the fact we’re even in this position shows the anti-consumer practices that are out there.
“While some firms have committed to playing fairer, don’t be surprised if others fail to show the true cost.”
Rory Boland, travel editor of Which? said: ‘These changes must now be swiftly implemented to stop these misleading practices, so customers can trust the deals they’re presented with are really deals & are told the total cost of their room upfront when booking a hotel online.’
In research by Which? in December 2017, before CMA launched their investigation, they found that two nights at nights at Paris’ Ares Eiffel hotel were available for £404 through Expedia’s ‘flash sale’. A day after the sale ended, the same dates in September went up to £628. However, a fortnight later, a new 40% off promotion was running and the same stay was available for £382 — £22 cheaper than the sale price.
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