Hotel booking sites such as US giant Expedia Group Inc (NASDAQ:EXPE) and Booking Holdings Inc (NASDAQ:BKNG) have agreed to “change their ways” after an investigation by the UK’s competition regulator raised “serious concerns” about various industry practices.
The Competition and Markets Authority found that several sites had broken consumer protection law with some of their actions, including the way search results were displayed.
Companies will now have to make it clear if a hotel’s ranking has been affected by how much commission it has agreed to pay.
The watchdog is also clamping down on pressure selling tactics, such as when sites alert users to other customers looking at the same hotel. They must now also make clear that other users may be looking at different dates.
Websites have also been banned from strategically showing sold out hotels within search results to encourage people to book more quickly.
Companies have agreed to make their discount claims more transparent and only promote deals that are that are available on the selected dates.
Sites will have to display all hidden charges – the bane of every traveller – such as taxes and booking or resort fees alongside 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. These have been wholly unacceptable,” said CMA chairman Andrew Tyrie.
“Six websites have already given firm undertakings not to engage in these practices. They are some of the largest hotel booking sites.
“The CMA will now do whatever it can to ensure that the rest of the sector meets the same standards.”