Hotel booking sites ‘could be breaking consumer law’

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Jun 28, 2018
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Consumers could be being misled by unfair price comparisons, the competition watchdog says

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Competition authorities are taking action against hotel booking websites which they say might be breaking consumer protection laws.

The Competition and Markets Authority pointed to allegations that search results are influenced by the amount of commission a hotel pays the site. Some sites are also allegedly giving false impressions to users over how many people are looking at the same room, how many rooms may be left or how long a price is available. No specific sites were named by the watchdog.

The CMA is assessing discount claims and whether the sites offer fair comparisons. For example, “claims could be based on a higher price that was only available for a brief period or not relevant to the customer’s search criteria, such as comparing a higher weekend room rate with the weekday rate for which the customer has searched”, it said.

Investigators are also concerned about hidden costs. They are looking at the extent to which sites include all costs in the price they first show customers or whether they are later faced with unexpected fees for taxes or booking administration.

The CMA said that the sites will be required to take action to address issues where they have been found to have breached consumer protection law. If they do not change their business practices they will be prosecuted in court, the CMA said.

A spokesman declined to say which sites or how many sites were being investigated. However, he said that the sites would be named in due course.

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