Six Booking Sites Promise to Stop Misleading Travelers

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Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers and trivago have been investigated over pressure selling and misleading discount claims, the competition watchdog says.

Hotel rankings will have to be explained to site visitors and the final amount payable must be clear - instead of leaving out cleaning fees, GST or other costs from prices quoted.

They must also make changes by September 1 and the CMA warned it will take further enforcement action if it finds evidence of others breaking the law.

However, the global bookings websites have agreed to stop taking part in the practices, which the CMA have deemed "unacceptable". That is up to a court to decide.

The practice in which popular websites, such as Expedia, Booking.com and Hotels.com, serve pop-up windows and other messages with "one room left at this price" and "booked four times in the last 24 hours" are found to be misleading potential guests on their popularity. Phrases such as "10 people are looking at this hotel" are widespread in the industry.

Hidden charges: Displaying all compulsory charges such as taxes, booking or resort fees in the headline price.

"The CMA has taken enforcement action to bring to an end misleading sales tactics, hidden charges and other practices in the online hotel booking market".

"Not all firms engaged in all of the practices cited above, but all have nonetheless agreed to abide by all the principles set out in the undertakings", the CMA said.

"The Competition Bureau encourages the online hotel booking platforms to review their marketing practices and ensure that they provide upfront, clear and accurate information to consumers", Bureau spokesperson Jayme Albert said.

The sites have been given a deadline of 1 September to make the changes, and they will be monitored by the CMA to track their compliance. They are some of the largest hotel booking sites. Its chairman, David Weston, said he was "delighted" with today's news.

The CMA took action past year because it was concerned that practices such as giving a false impression of a room's popularity or not displaying the full cost of a room upfront could mislead people, stop them finding the best deal and potentially break consumer protection law.

Tourists don't know where they've been, runs the saying, while travellers don't know where they're going. It would have looked pretty bad for both if the CMA had decided initiate legal proceedings because they had declined to co-operate.

Consumer action group Which? welcomed the CMA's intervention and said the changes should be "swiftly implemented". The six companies have agreed to be more transparent, the CMA has said.

Hotel booking sites will be forced to make major changes after Britain's competition watchdog found they routinely engage in pressure selling, mislead consumers over prices and give more prominence to hotels that pay the most commission.

McNamee said whatever changes the company has made to its processes are "limited to the U.K." although he says the company will happily work "with regulatory authorities across our global markets".

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