Call for ban on brand hijacking by OTAs

A petition has been launched calling for the first time for Parliament to ban OTAs from bidding on B&Bs and hotels’ name on internet search engines without their specific agreement.

Referring the practice as brandjacking, B&B owner Frank McCreadie said: “Large On-line Travel Agencies (OTAs) bid on an hotels own name on internet search engines to divert enquiries to their own Platforms. It should be illegal to do this without a specific separate agreement.

“As a small B&B I cannot compete with the billions that OTAs spend on web searches and am deprived of direct clients by this practice and forced to pay high commmisions (15% to 25%) which ultimately of necessity are passed to consumers. The clause hidden in small print allowing OTAs to use our names negates our own websites and internet presence and it cannot be fair to use someone’s own name to divert customers. Such bidding should be by express mutual agreement only. A lot of good B&Bs will go under.”

B&B association chairman David Weston said: “We agree that a hotel or B&B should be allowed to say to an OTA, ‘Yes, we are happy to deal with you, happy to give our availability, happy to pay you commission on bookings you bring us, BUT we don’t want you to undermine our own direct marketing by bidding on our own name with search engines’. That would make competition freer and fairer.

“The only way to achieve this is for the CMA to ban the OTAs from forcing their name-bidding terms on the accommodation provider. That must not be a non-negotiable item bundled into the OTA’s T&Cs on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis as at present; it must be subject to separate express agreement.

“We see this ‘ask’ as a modest and reasonable way of redressing the grotesque imbalance of power between global OTAs and tiny family busineses, and making competition a little fairer. So join me in urging the CMS to act.”

Sign the petition here https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/243020/