The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is to investigate the practices of hotel booking websites to see whether consumers really are able to choose the best deal for themselves by using them.
As part of the CMA’s investigation, it will be examining: how hotels are ranked on comparison sites (looking at whether commission paid by hotels skews the results, for example); the culture of ‘pressure selling,’ for instance when users are told how few rooms are left or how long a certain price is available for; whether ‘discounts’ are as honest as they claim to be (a discount from a high price that only existed for a short period of time could be considered misleading, for example); and the issue of hidden charges and whether prices that customers are initially shown are representative of the final cost.
The CMA is asking for information from companies across the whole hotel sector, as well as anecdotal evidence from users of comparison sites, to help with its conclusions.
If it finds that these websites’ practices have been misleading and are breaking consumer law then the CMA has the power to take enforcement action.
Its chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “Around 70% of people who shopped around for hotels last year used these sites and they should all be confident they have chosen the best accommodation for their needs and are getting a good deal.
“To do this, sites need to give their customers information that is clear, accurate and presented in a way that enables people to choose the best deal for them. But we are concerned that this is not happening and that the information on sites may in fact be making it difficult for people to make the right choice.”