Hotel comparison site, Booking.com, is continuing to push customers to book rooms by giving misleading information about availability
Research conducted by Which? Travel that claims hotels only had ‘one room left’ were often untrue.
It cites one case with a London hotel where 34 rooms were actually available, 10 of which were either almost identical or cheaper than the so-called ‘last room’.
This is despite enforcement action from the Competition and Markets Authority which gave it until September 1st to improve the ways in which they promote deals and explain charges.
The CMA was concerned that hotel platforms were giving holiday bookers incorrect information about rooms’ popularity, were not providing sufficient information about room costs upfront and were in some cases breaching consumer protection laws.
New guidelines were agreed between six platforms: Agoda, booking.com, ebookers, Expedia, Hotels.com and trivago, which had until 1st September to implement the changes.
Which? claims Booking.com’s ongoing claims about room availability put unnecessary pressure on customers to make bookings quickly and steer them to more expensive rooms.
It says other platforms have changed the wording on room availability claims. Agoda, for example tells customers “we only have one left at this price”.
Commenting on the investigation, a spokesperson for Booking.com says: "At Booking.com we work continuously to bring transparency, choice and value to travelers, constantly testing and improving the way in which we present our services online. We have worked hard to implement the commitments agreed with the CMA and maintain continuing collaboration and dialogue to inform ongoing enhancement of the consumer experience. This includes implementing new ways to surface information to consumers about the availability and popularity of specific properties, with this messaging currently being optimized as part of that iterative process.
"As a company which puts customers at the heart of everything we do, we never stop looking at how we can optimize the consumer experience on our website and mobile apps, as well as working closely with authorities like the CMA on industry wide improvements."
Since its original investigation into six hotel booking sites, the CMA said it has now reached agreements with 25 major hotel booking sites.
The firms in question – which include Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Google and major hotel chains – have all agreed to comply with its sector wide consumer protection principles. This will ensure the full cost of a room is always displayed upfront and that consumers are not given a false impression of its popularity.
Commenting on the announcement, CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli says: People booking hotels online can now do so with more confidence thanks to the CMA’s action. Major websites and big hotel chains have agreed to clean up their act if they’ve been using misleading sales tactics, and have signed up to sector-wide consumer law principles on how to display important information to customers.
“The CMA will now be watching to make sure that these major brands, used by millions of people in the UK every year, stay true to their word. We will take action if we find evidence that firms are breaking consumer law.”
The 25 companies to have signed the agreement are:
- Best Western Hotels & Resorts, Great Britain
- Late Rooms (no longer operating)
- On the Beach
- Premier Inn
- Radisson Hotel Group
- Travel Republic
- Wyndham Hotels and Resorts