Hoteliers back web crackdown

Hotels on Eastbourne Seafront (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-180124-124901008
Hotels on Eastbourne Seafront (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-180124-124901008

Eastbourne Hospitality Association has welcomed a watchdog announcement that enforcement action will be taken against leading online hotel booking sites for misleading selling tactics.

The Competition and Markets Authority said on Wednesday that sites including Expedia, Booking.com and Hotels.com must stop displaying messages which give a false impression of a hotel’s popularity, with claims such as “one room left at this price” and “booked four times in the last 24 hours”. The CMA said pressure tactics could prevent customers finding the best deals as a result of practices that could amount to breaches of consumer law.

EHA submitted evidence to a House of Lord’s committee on online platforms and the single digital market in 2015. That committee recommended the CMA launch an investigation into the many practices of online booking agents in the travel and accommodation sector and the findings were released on Wednesday.

Hotels association chairman Steve Jordan said, “The EHA was cited in the House of Lords report when it found, amongst other things, the practice that online travel agents websites used flash messages encouraging the customer to purchase ‘now’ before it’s too late or ‘room just booked for this hotel’ when in fact it has not. We are pleased to see the CMA has now outlawed this practice. Although enforcement taken against the online platforms is welcome and a positive step to ensuring the best deal for consumers, we are disappointed the CMA refuses to look into the practice of OTAs into ‘rate parity’ practices. This means on the whole consumers who book through some sites are still paying far more for their holidays and their accommodation than they need to.”

The online sites have agreed to stop using “misleading” sales tactics.