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Published on Friday, May 24, 2019

Which? accuses hotel booking sites of continued deception



 





Major hotel booking sites are still skewing search results, using pressure tactics and claiming false discounts despite a major clampdown, according to new Which? research.

In February, Competition and Markets Authority accused Expedia, Booking.com, Trivago, Hotels.com, Agoda and Ebookers of using unfair practices and ordered them to stop using measures that could mislead customers.

They were given until September to comply, but an investigation by Which? has found that sites are still using tactics to pressurise customers to book this summer, such as not displaying full costs upfront, giving a false impression of a room's popularity and dishonestly claiming that rooms are discounted.

For example, Trivago's site advertised a deal with Expedia for the Paris's Millesime hotel for £244 in February, which it claimed was a saving of 63%, but this was only compared with the most expensive price on another site, not the average, said Which? When its researcher clicked through, the 'pricier' site was actually offering the same room for £240 - £4 cheaper than Expedia.


Pressure tactics such as 'one room left at this price' and 'booked four times in the last 24 hours' can manipulate customers into parting with their cash quickly by giving the impression that the offer is time-limited, added Which?

The consumer champion said 44% of its members agreed that seeing the prompt 'only one room left on our site' would influence their decision to book.

However, in some cases, Which? found that these claims were bogus. For example, when Booking.com was advertising 'the last' double room with private external bathroom at the Balmore Guest House in Edinburgh, Which? claimed there were another seven doubles available with ensuites at the same price.

Which? also claimed Agoda was duping customers with unclear pricing. When its researchers checked in February, it was advertising a room at the Grand Hyatt New York Hotel for £189 a night there was an additional £30 hotel tax and service fee that weren't mentioned on the front page.

The small print went on to reveal that a £27 'destination fee' would also be collected at the property, said Which?

Booking sites have been given until September to clean up their act, including making it clear on their pages which listings are sponsored, but Which? said that, in the meantime, millions of customers booking accommodation this summer would be misled.

To secure the best deal, Which? is advising consumers to contact their chosen hotel directly by phone. Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor said:"These sites have been getting away with dodgy sales practices for years and while the regulator's intervention is a positive step, millions of holidaymakers are still going to be duped this summer before any changes are made.


"You're usually better off calling the hotel directly for the best rate anyway - even if it can't beat the price it will usually offer an incentive, discount or even a bottle of champagne to sweeten the deal."

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  • ALWAYS go direct

    Whenever I book a hotel, I always look at booking sites just for curiosity, then phone hotel direct, I ALWAYS get a better deal. One example, £10 cheaper per night with breakfast included. The booking site was dearer and breakfast extra. Always put your sensible head on and bypass the booking sites.

    By Keith Standen, Sunday, May 26, 2019

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