Action taken over OTAs’ misleading sales tactics

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced this week it has taken enforcement action against six online travel agents (OTAs) to correct misleading sales tactics.

The action targets issues that include pressure selling, misleading discount claims and hidden charges, and has been taken against Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, ebookers, Agoda and Trivago.

CMA chairman Andrew Tyrie said the authority had taken enforcement action to bring to an end misleading sales tactics, hidden charges and other practices in the online hotel booking market. “These have been wholly unacceptable,” he said. “Six websites have already given firm undertakings not to engage in these practices. They are some of the largest hotel booking sites. The CMA will now do whatever it can to ensure that the rest of the sector meets the same standards.”

The CMA began its investigation in 2017 after evidence of misleading practices was presented to it by the B&B Association. Citing the illustration, association chairman David Weston said: “This is the sort of fake discount by OTAs we should not be seeing any more of after the ruling…banning it and a raft of other misleading ways these online giants have abused customers.”

Specialist B&B consultant Yvonne Halling cautioned: “The news of the OTAs malpractices in terms of how they’ve been misleading the public this week is good news, but unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg.  What the public don’t see is the other side of it from the perspective of the accommodation providers. It’s not just about the commissions they pay to the OTAs, but more about the psychological grip they have over small operators.  With these revelations, come responsibility by the accommodation providers to step up and learn new skills that put them directly in front of their guests, online.  There is much work to do on this.”

For further detail on the action and its implications see the next issue of Luxury B&B Magazine.