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Booking sites still “misleading” customers

Consumer group Which? is warning that travellers should be wary of the crafty sales tactics of hotel booking websites.

Agoda, Booking.com, eBookers, Expedia, Hotels.com and Trivago have been ordered to phase out practices deemed unfair by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The consumer group Which? reports that the practices are still taking place ahead of the summer holiday season. The CMA has given a deadline of September 1 to end them and make savings genuine or risk going to court.

The consumer site found that some online booking companies are “misleading” customers with dubious discount rates.

For example, a standard room advertised at a discount might actually be marketing with a savings calculated by comparing standard and luxury room rates. In other words, the standard room is not on sale, but rather just advertised at its regular rate, which is always lower than the luxury room.

And when searching for destinations and dates online, it is often the paid advertising that takes a prominent position as a supposedly discounted rate.

But the CMA says that booking sites must now clearly differentiate between sponsored and unsponsored listings by the deadline.

Best practices
Some 44% of Which? members admitted that a site’s prompt stating that only one room remains at the advertised price would influence their decision to book.

However, when checked, in some cases there were more than 50 similar rooms available.

Such advertising actually means one room which is exactly the same grade, occupancy and price point, regardless of whether there are several dozen similar rooms that would fit the customer’s requirements just as well.

And though sites have largely become more transparent about pricing, the problem of hidden fees is another practice that the CMA is requiring be stopped by the deadline.

In short, the consumer group indicates that the best practice to avoid all of these misleading strategies is to dig deeper and compare all offers on any site.

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