CMA rebukes hotel-booking sites

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK has enforced stricter advertising regulations following misleading discount claims and hidden charges on several hotel-booking sites.

The investigation, which began in June 2018, came after the CMA grew concerned that the sites Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, Ebookers and Trivago were making rooms appear more popular than they were, and that the information provided for each did not accurately reflect what was on offer. Deeming this ‘wholly unacceptable’, Andrew Tyrie, CMA Chairman, said: "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."

The companies have since agreed to adhere to the following regulations: clear grading of hotels, displaying if any have paid more to appear further up on ranking sites; accurate reflection of hotels’ popularity; promoting only the discounts that are available at the time of booking; and displaying all charges in the price, including taxes, booking or resort fees.

Speaking on British Broadcasting Channel Radio 4, Michel Grenfell, Executive Director of enforcement at the CMA, said: "You can get some good bargains on these sites, but it is very important that you can trust what they say." He added that not ‘all of the six companies had partaken in these bad practices’, but they would continue to be monitored and have until 1 September 2019 to comply with the new regulations to avoid being taken to court.