Britain’s competition watchdog is to investigate hotel booking websites over concerns that consumers are being scammed, pressured, and prevented from finding the best prices.
The Competition and Markets Authority said it would start looking into whether sites were using pressure tactics to hurry customers to reserving rooms, and if they were pushing hotels based on the commission they receive, in what could amount to a breach of consumer law.
About 70 percent of people researching hotels last year employed booking websites, which include Trivago, booking.com, Expedia and late Rooms. The CMA said customers needed to be confident they were getting the best bargain.
“Sites need to provide their customers information that’s clear, precise and presented in a way that enables people to opt for the best deal for them,” said Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA. “But we’re worried that this is not occurring and that the information on websites may actually be making it difficult for folks to make the ideal option.
“That is why we have begun our investigation into this sector — to get to the bottom of these issues, see if websites are breaking up consumer law and be sure they assist, not interfere with people looking for their second hotel room.”
The CMA will explore whether sites try to rush clients into making a decision by making a false impression of room availability, saying how many rooms are abandoned or for how long a price can be obtained.
Other regions of concern include websites potentially steering customers towards resorts depending on the total amount of commission they earn from a booking, and hidden charges including taxes and booking fees which might only be shown at the end of the process.
The CMA has written to companies across the business asking for information about their practices and wishes to hear from customers about their experiences.