/ Travel & Leisure

Are hotel booking sites ‘misleading’?

hotel booking websites

The Competition and Markets Authority is investigating dodgy deals on hotel booking sites. If these sites are misleading their customers, should more of us move to booking direct?

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an investigation into hotel booking sites. Its aim? To reveal whether people are really able to find the best hotel deal.

The CMA’s concerned that the quality of information could mislead people and prevent them from finding the best deal. And that could ultimately mean the sites are breaking consumer law.

The investigation will look at:

  • How hotels are ranked in customer searches
  • Pressure-selling claims eg. where you’re told a number of other people are looking at the same room as you at the same time
  • Whether discounts offered are fair for consumers
  • Claims these sites fail to make all charges apparent at point of sale.

Speaking about his personal experience working in the hospitality sector, our Digital Content Manager Dean Samways shares his story below:

I used to work for a boutique collection of short and long let apartments in west London. These homes were, in my eyes, utter palaces. Done up to the nines with plush furnishings, the latest audio/visual technology, marble worktops and floor-to-ceiling mirrored statement walls.

Despite attracting the super-rich, the occasional Hollywood star and UK pop icon, we had an ongoing struggle with hotel booking sites. In one respect, they were the lifeblood of the business. Sites such as Booking.com, Expedia, lastminute.com and TripAdvisor gave us a presence in marketplaces visited by hundreds of thousands of people looking to book a city break.

These sites let travellers compare hotel rooms with great ease and, apparently, at some of the best prices around. Around 70% of the company’s business came through hotel booking sites like these, and 80% of that was from Booking.com alone.

These third-party websites can charge hotels anything from 15-35% commission for promoting rooms to the many millions of visitors they receive every day but their prices can sometimes be more expensive than the hotel’s own direct booking rates.

The main thrust of my job was to try and bring prospective residents directly to the company’s website. Many holidaymakers will know that booking direct with a hotel is often the cheapest way to find somewhere to stay.

Despite offering 10% off direct bookings and other incentives, by the time I left, there was almost no change in the number of customers cutting out the middleman. Above all, the most frustrating thing for me was the fact that very few of the customers who came through these sites were getting as good a deal as those who came to us directly.

CMA investigation

When you consider that 70% of hotel rooms were booked via these sites last year, people need to feel confident they’re being offered the right product for them and at the best possible price.

In the past, we’ve found evidence of booking sites using pressure-selling tactics and making claims about discount deals that just don’t add up. If the CMA finds breaches of consumer law, it should take enforcement action.

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Have you ever booked a hotel using one of these price comparison websites? Any thoughts on the CMA’s investigation?

Comments
Guest
bishbut says:
28 October 2017

Many people today have to do everything as fast as possible they do not stop and think or study anything doing anything today you have to watch out for all sorts of trickery and dodgy deals some deliberate others mistakes some will not listen to any advice many do not read Which sorry to say which gives good advice but even Which can be wrong and promote unnecessary things (my opinion) but on the whole is dong a good even necessary job on things the government should be doing Having my say again using Which conversations.

Guest

There was a program on TV recently that highlighted the problems small hotels have trying to fill rooms.

If they didn’t sign up to booking sites, they lost customers to other hotels who were signed up.

But they did say they could offer better packages such as a free breakfast if customers approached them directly.

When traveling in the USA, we rarely pre-book unless going somewhere like Death Valley where accommodation is scarce and a very long drive to the next hotel or needing a hotel next to the airport for an early departure. Most hotels have various walk-in discounts including our AA card as the equivalent of their AAA. Never take your luggage into the hotel until you have decided on a room. Always inspect and refuse the first rooms they offer you as they always try to get rid of their worst rooms first and you can usually end up with a good deal in a better room. Checking a booking site first will give you an indication of their pricing and never believe the receptionist when they say they have just one room left.

Guest

Very helpful practical advice.

This is the kind of thing that should be in the Member Community forum where a relevant heading could be used for a discussion and then easily found in the future.

Guest

Excellent advice, Alfa, which I’d endorse completely, especially the Death Valley bit 🙂

Guest
lemonayd2 says:
29 March 2018

I experienced this yesterday on http://www.homeaway.com. I think I had started making a booking and paused while I spoke to my wife. The website put up a popup saying x number of people have been looking at this property so I’d better carry on with my booking or I might miss out. Before making the booking there were the usual messages that x number of people had viewed this property in the last x hours. I left feedback on the website saying I objected to this and wouldn’t recommend their site. I notice this type of pressure a lot nowadays. I see it on Amazon where they say only 6 items left better order now. It is stressing the user and is completely unecessary. If I want to buy, I will buy.