Hotel booking sites convicted of fraud


February 8, Fineko/abc.az. The UK’s Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has obliged a number of the largest and most popular sites of online-booking of hotels, including Expedia, Booking.com Agoda, Hotels.com, Ebookers and Trivago, to change the methods of work and not to deceive consumers.

According to the authorities, the aggregators regularly hid additional fees, did not explain the principles of evaluation of hotels and discounts, etc.

The CMA demanded from the online hotel booking services to change business practices after conducting extensive testing in this market. The audit was launched in June 2018 after numerous cases of misleading consumers had been identified.

So, for example, when a client choose a hotel room through any of the aggregators, a notification appeared on the screen that at the moment several more people are interested in the same room. Although not necessarily other customers chose the same booking date.

In addition, online booking services could mislead consumers about discounts, comparing the price of a suite room and a regular room. Often aggregators before the actual payment did not indicate the final cost of the room, taking into account all taxes, booking fee and in some cases, resort fee.

Following a discussion with the British regulator of the revealed violations the online booking services committed:

- Do not put pressure upon customers, convincing them of high demand for the room.

- Do not add to the search results the hotels in which all rooms are already booked.

- Immediately specify the full cost of the room including all taxes and fees.

- Clearly and accessibly to inform about possible discounts, to provide information about the principles of evaluation of hotels.

The CMA says that not all of those services are guilty of the above-mentioned violations. But all of them have to change before 1 September the methods of doing business to exclude possible violations. If this is not done in time, the British regulator will go to court.

In the near future, the CMA intends to appeal to other online booking services to remind them of the need to comply with the law on consumer protection and encourage them also to correct possible violations before 1 September.

Commenting on the regulator's decision in an interview with BBC Radio 4, CMA Enforcement Department’s head Michael Grenfell stated: "Very good options could be found on these sites, but it is very important that people could trust what these sites say. But we'll watch them."