Hotel booking sites to make major changes after CMA probe

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After a thorough examination found their practices to be deceptive, six hotel booking businesses are being pressured to change.

Some of the world's biggest hotel booking sites have agreed to stop engaging in shady marketing tactics like pressure selling and misleading discounts following an investigation from the UK's consumer protection group.

Some of the measures the sites have agreed to undertake include changing their search results so they are clearer, ending pressure selling, making discount claims more transparent and displaying all compulsory charges.

Online giants such as Expedia, trivago, Hotels.com, Agoda, ebookers and Booking.com were found by the authority to be routinely misleading travellers with hardnosed sales techniques.

"When staying in a hotel, it is a great idea to look for the best deals, but what may seem to be an incredible deal originally could actually end up ripping you off after you're hit by charges that weren't made clear from the beginning", Charles warned. Sites have now committed not to do this.

By discount claims, it is referring to the practice where a website will try to illustrate a sale price by comparing it to a regular price that isn't relevant, such as being on different dates, or a different room type.

"When you choose your hotel package, always double check the amount they are expecting you to pay and, if a discount was promised, ensure you are receiving it in full", said Charles.

They also need to show charges such as taxes, booking or resort fees in the price. "These have been wholly unacceptable", said CMA Chairman, Andrew Tyrie.

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The Competition and Markets Authority is clamping down on websites including Expedia, Booking.com and Hotels.com over practices that give a false impression of a hotel's popularity, with claims such as "one room left at this price" and "booked four times in the last 24 hours".

"Six websites have already given firm undertakings not to engage in these practices".

The CMA will now seek to make the rest of the sector follow the same rules as the six companies it has named, it said. Nowadays neither tourists nor travellers know quite how much they are being manipulated by unscrupulous hotel booking platforms.

These other sites must also make changes by 1 September and the CMA warned it will take further enforcement action if it finds any evidence of them breaking the law. Not all firms engaged in all of the dubious practices but all have agreed to abide by all the principles set out by the CMA.

These changes must be made by 1 September and the CMA will then monitor compliance.

Hotel booking sites like Trivago, Expedia, and Booking.com are being forced to change the way they operate after a United Kingdom watchdog found they were engaging in misleading sales strategies.

The CMA started enforcement action previous year and although it has legal powers the companies involved have "voluntarily agreed" to make the changes.

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