After an investigation that began back in October 2017, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced this week that some hotel booking websites were misleading users about hotel room prices and search results which could stop customers from finding the best price and potentially breaking consumer protection law.
All the websites have now agreed to change their practices and make search results clearer, end pressure selling, be clearer about discounts and promote deals that are actually available, as well as display all charges including taxes in the headline price. The changes must take effect by September 1 or they might face further action.
“6 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,” said Andrew Tyrie, the CMA chairman, in the official press release.
Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality declared: “Action to provide transparency, clarity and fairness around online booking platforms will provide a fairer playing field, which can only be a good thing. Customers booking online have for too long been unwittingly misinformed and they deserve better.”
The booking industry response
As a response to the CMA’s findings, Expedia Group, owner of both Ebookers and Hotels.com, stated they fully cooperated with the investigation and they always had the best interest of consumers in mind, adding: “We gave commitments to the CMA on a voluntarily basis and the CMA in turn closed its investigation in respect of the Expedia Group with no admission or finding of liability. We continue to believe our practices did not breach any consumer laws.”
Expedia also added these new changes will only apply to Expedia sites registered in the UK while the other websites did not respond to questions if the changes will be implemented locally or world wide.
Meanwhile, Trivago agreed they will follow the new regulations to the extent they are applicable to their website, and Booking.com were glad the CMA did not find an “admission of infringement”.