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.
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.Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
Have you ever booked a hotel using one of these price comparison websites? Any thoughts on the CMA’s investigation?