The Adrian Loveridge Column – Online Hotel Booking Websites Must Change

According to a press release issue by the GOV.UK website, the British based Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) ‘has secured a victory for UK holidaymakers as some of the biggest online hotel booking sites make formal commitments to change their ways’.

Enforcement action has already been applied to the giants like Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers and trivago ‘due to serious concerns around issues like pressure selling, misleading discount claims, the effect that commission has on how hotels are ordered on site and hidden charges’.

The Competition and Markets Authority were driven to action last year because it was concerned that practices such as giving a false impression of a room’s popularity or not displaying the full cost of a room upfront could possibly mislead people and stop them finding the best deal while potentially break consumer protection law.

It is important to point out that all the companies under investigation by the CMA have co-operated with its work and have already voluntarily agreed to the following:

Search results: making is clearer how hotels are ranked after a customer has entered their search requirements, for example telling people when search results have been affected by the amount of commission a hotel pays the site.

Pressure selling: not giving a false impression of the availability or popularity of a hotel or rushing customers into making a booking decision based on incomplete information. For example, when highlighting that other customers are looking at the same hotel as you, making it clear they may not be searching for different dates.
The CMA also saw examples of some sites strategically placing sold out hotels within search results to put pressure on people to book more quickly.

Discount claims: being clearer about discounts and only promoting deals that are actually available at that time. Examples of misleading discount claims may include comparisons with a higher price that was not relevant to the customer’s search criteria. Some sites were comparing a higher weekend room rate with a weekday rate or comparing the price of a luxury suite with a standard room.

Hidden charges: displaying all compulsory charges such as taxes, booking or resort fees in the headline price. Sites can still break that price down, but the total amount the customer has to pay should be shown upfront.

The CMA will now monitor compliance with the commitments made by the bookings sites which must be fully implemented by 1st September 2019 latest.

While this groundbreaking ‘action’ by the CMA is currently limited to online agencies domiciled in the United Kingdom, I suspect other countries will adopt all or a substantial part of the enforcement.

In my humble opinion this intervention was long overdue and will substantially help eradicate the clear disparity and confusion that previously existed.

It will also help level the playing field for the many large hotel brands who have invested substantially in trying to attract a higher percentage of returning guests by guaranteeing the lowest room rate when booking direct.

6 comments

  • I think you have the wrong end of the stick – its the smaller hoteliers who are set to benefit as the large brands have for years being paying the booking sites override commissions for prominent listings and have encouraged the subtle marketing tactics.

    Like

  • Great time with in DR. Wake up

    Like

  • Airbnb subpoenaed by New York City for data on listings
    Sara O'Brien byline
    By Sara O’Brien, CNN Business
    Updated 0000 GMT (0800 HKT) February 20, 2019

    New York (CNN Business)New York City has subpoenaed Airbnb for data on roughly 20,000 listings in the area to make sure hosts aren’t breaking local laws about short-term rentals.

    In an interview on television station NY1 on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio shared his rationale for the subpoena from the Office of Special Enforcement: “If your apartment was rented out every single day, it’s not your apartment anymore. It’s a business.”
    “This goes under the category: If you got nothing to hide why are you not coming forward with the information?” he continued. “If Airbnb believes that all of the people it’s working with are doing things right, then why not be transparent.”
    A similar subpoena was also issued to vacation rental site HomeAway. They include requests for details about hosts including their addresses, names, contact information, their volume of bookings and amount of money earned.
    HomeAway did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    In 2016, New York made it illegal for people to list entire apartments on Airbnb and similar sites for periods of less than 30 days. The law is aimed at cracking down on people turning their homes into hotels and taking potential rental housing off the market while denying the city tax revenue.
    In July, New York City Council passed a bill that would have required short-term rental companies turn over information about hosts and rentals every month beginning in February. But one month before it was set to happen, Airbnb and HomeAway won a preliminary injunction that prevented them from having to start releasing data on rental listings.
    The companies argued that the law violates their Fourth Amendment rights to be free from search and seizures.
    The federal judge’s decision from January suggests that the city already possesses the ability to subpoena Airbnb. “It can use these tools to safeguard its interests while this litigation is pending,” the court filing reads.

    In response to the subpoena, Airbnb’s head of global policy Chris Lehane issued a letter to Mayor de Blasio on Tuesday.
    In it, Lehane wrote that the company works with more than 500 governments around the world on rules and data sharing.
    “It is no secret that we have been vocal supporters of this very approach in New York City — in the form of comprehensive and effective regulations that provide those key protections for New York City hosts and outline clear rules for safety, tax collection, and enforcement against those who would seek to take advantage of our platform to operate illegal hotels,” Lehane wrote.
    He also noted that the company has “proactively implemented a stop-gap program of our own,’ in reference to the company’s “One Host, One Home” policy started in 2016 and implemented in San Francisco, Portland and New York. The policy aims to stop individuals from listing and promoting multiple properties on the platform.
    Lehane also said the company “offered to work with the City to collaboratively focus enforcement efforts on weeding out large scale commercial operators who seek to circumvent our policies. And while that offer hasn’t yet been accepted, we stand by it.”

    https://edition.cnn.com/2019/02/19/tech/airbnb-subpoena-new-york-city/index.html

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  • Not one sand fly no house fly swarm like the yacht club while your trying to eat. The beaches are not as nice but the people are friendly and really good meals I would rate it great value for money

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  • Piece Uh De Rock Yeah Right

    @ Adrian Loverage

    There are 2 things I want to send you.

    I will send you one item first for you to look at it.

    Review it and see how it can and will be useful for your business.

    If it is, we can speak further as it relates to a specific option and Avenue for You to Eclipse the Barbados Tourism Authority and the Caribbean Tourism Organization as the regional Marketing Authority.

    I will reach out to you on Monday though since today is a challenge

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  • “Enter Hilton Grand Vacations into the mix. With visitor arrivals on the rise for 2019, another major player is set to roll out within the next two months.”

    http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/238626/vacation-ready

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