Getting away with it?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

On the 27th of October 2017, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that there would be an investigation into online hotel booking websites.

hotel room
Would you have a booked this hotel room if the listings on online booking sites were fairer?

As a result, six of the biggest hotel booking sites are to change the way they advertise to consumers. Those six are Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers and Trivago.  But what of the others and, in particular, TripAdvisor which has morphed from a review site into a booking site? Will it follow suit and be more transparent? Why didn’t the CMA investigate and hold discussions with it?

Fifteen months later (why do investigations by the CMA take so long?) they have concluded that there were ‘serious concerns’ around issues like pressure selling, misleading discount claims, the effect that commission has on how hotels listed on sites, and hidden charges.

Why have no court actions been announced? That we have been deceived for so long suggests misselling. When that happens there is usually action but this time the big companies seem to have got away with it. The CMA has smacked their hands and told them not to be bad boys. The companies have said they won’t do it again and the CMA has settled for that

Meanwhile those consumers who have been duped into booking hotels they might not have chosen have no redress.

If the CMA held discussions with Expedia as well as ebookers, Trivago and Hotels.com all three of which it also owns why didn’t the CMA talk to other Expedia brands such as Hotwire, Orbitz and Travelocity? It is hoped that all the brands owned by the companies with which the CMA had talks were included in the decision.

But all online booking sites should following the CMA decisions not just the six named.  If in future we see a pop-up on a hotel page saying that three people have booked will be confident that the site means that three people have booked on the same day and for the same type of accommodation that we are looking at? Will the CMA monitor the sites or will it rely on consumers informing them if the advice it wants is not followed?

The CMA announced that it would be writing to “other hotel booking sites including online travel agents, metasearch engines and hotel chains setting out clear expectations for how they should be complying with consumer protection law.” They have until September to comply. After that date the CMA will consider taking further action.

It might even rap the knuckles of those that have offended!

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