The government is under growing pressure to take steps to address new anti-competitive practices adopted by OTAs after the warnings were issued against travel in the UK.
As this issue went to press the hospitality industry was intensely lobbying the UK government for clarification on cancellation terms in regard to bookings via third party agents.
The B&B Association has attacked “unscrupulous policies” adopted by OTAs just as restrictions were imposed on the UK in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Association chairman David Weston told Luxury BnB magazine: “The two biggest such agencies, booking.com and expedia, unilaterally informed B&Bs they were immediately invoking a force majeure clause, returning non-refundable deposits to bookers and not paying any of it to the B&Bs, regardless of existing booking policy. B&Bs that assumed deposits that they were legally allowed to keep found they had nothing.”
He also cited instances of B&Bs choosing “for moral reasons” to return deposits only to find the OTAs billing them for the commission on non-existent deposits. “The property owners have zero income on that booking yet are being billed for commission, so they have negative income,” he said.
“We have multiple examples of that, and we are putting it all through to government and talking to the Competition & Markets Authority about these practices, particularly the unilateral change in terms and conditions, to establish whether that is an unfair contract term.”
He said the association is putting out advice to members as it forms but was unable to offer any firm advice as we went to press hours before it was due to hold meetings to discuss OTA policy with the Tourism Industry Council and Scottish Tourism. “At the moment it is up in the air,” he said.
OTAs faced a growing rebellion last month as a Which? Travel investigation warned travellers that in eight out of 10 cases it is cheaper to book directly with the hotel or guest house. The report found guests are paying up to 12% too much by booking with OTAs as opposed to booking direct.
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