Authorities want to put a stop to misleading sales tactics used by hotel booking sites

For the most part, hotel booking sites are great for travelers, they help make finding a great deal on that perfect hotel room easy and hassle free.

For the most part.

But if you’ve ever been on any one of these hotels booking site, you’ll often find notices like:

  • This is the last room
  • There are 15 people interested in this room
  • 70% off for today only
  • The last 3 rooms at this price
  • Booked 40 times within the last 24 hours

These notices create a sense of urgency in the user, encouraging them to book a room in haste or risk losing the room to another interested holiday goer. Rather than continue your search for the best deal in other sites, you quickly succumb and book on a deal that appears to be the most sought after.

But are the notices genuine or do they create an artificial sense of urgency?

This has caught the attention of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK. The authority, which is responsible for healthy and fair competition in the country, have conducted an investigation looking into a number of hotel booking sites in June 2018. Post the investigation, the CMA established a set of rules to bring an end to misleading sales tactics, hidden charges and other dishonest practices among hotel booking sites.

Based on the investigations, the CMA has outlined several rules that it wants the hotel booking sector to comply with the guidelines or face being taken to court.

For hotel booking sites, the CMA has laid out the following rules:

  • To make it clearer how hotels are graded, including whether hotels paying the ranking sites more have received a position higher up the list
  • To not give a false impression of a hotel’s popularity to rush customers into making a booking. For example, when saying that other customers are looking at the same hotel as you, it should be made clear that they are searching for different dates. Some sites were also placing sold-out hotels within search results to put pressure on people to book more quickly.
  • To be clear about discounts and only promoting deals that are actually available at that time. The CMA found sites comparing a higher weekend room rate with a weekday rate or comparing the price of a luxury suite with a standard room
  • To show charges such as taxes, booking or resort fees in the price

Following the establishment of the rules, six booking sites have agreed to comply to CMA’s recommendations: Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers and trivago. In addition, the authority says that all other websites that provide similar services must comply with the ruling as well.

The booking sites have until September 1 2019, to comply or face action in court.

As well as more and more Malaysians travel abroad and domestically, hotel booking sites become increasingly popular in the country. The rules set by the CMA is a good model to implement here as it can protect us from being misled by hotel booking sites. It is certainly something that should be enforced here as well.

[via SoyaCincau BM]

Amin Ashaari