The majority of hotel booking sites have said that they will cooperate with the investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into the accuracy and transparency of hotel booking sites.
Sites including Trivago, Booking.com and Expedia are set to be scrutinised by the CMA over concerns they may be misleading consumers and potentially breaking consumer law. The CMA said it will look at online travel agent (OTA) practices, including search results, ‘pressure selling’, discount claims and hidden charges.
In a statement, Trivago said that it would “work with the CMA to explain the benefits it delivers to consumers”.
Expedia similarly said it “has been informed of the CMA’s review to better understand the hotel booking sector” and welcomed “further discussion with the CMA to review how platforms provide transparency to the market increasing competition between hotels and to increase consumer benefit”.
Booking.com declined to comment.
The British Hospitality Association (BHA) welcomed the move. Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, said: “Many of our members have been concerned about the vast power of online booking agencies often charging high rates of commission, use of misleading information, pressure selling, and a lack of transparency.
“In the process guests are paying more than they should for rooms. Contract terms also often include ‘narrow parity’ clauses, which restrict a hotel’s ability to offer a lower price on the hotel website than that offered to the online travel agent with which it has an agreement.
“The online booking industry is dominated by only two companies who own 80% of the European market. Expedia owns brands including hotels.com, Trivago and Travelocity while Priceline Group owns companies such as Booking.com, Kayak and Agoda. Another company HRS owns a further 12%. This means that this is difficult for others to break into the market.
“The BHA, in submissions to the CMA, has advocated for greater transparency from OTAs, citing increases in prices for consumers and misleading information by websites. Our objective is to not to hinder the growth of the online marketplace but to deliver a fair digital market.”
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