The government’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has issued formal guidance to hoteliers, to help them take control of their own pricing on online travel agent platforms, such as Expedia and Booking.com
The new guidance, which also seeks to make the market as competitive as possible, is available online and follows the watchdog’s own research that found 79% of hotels surveyed said they had not varied the price for their rooms across OTA platforms since 2015, when Expedia and Booking.com no longer required hotels to guarantee they would not offer their rooms more cheaply on other OTAs.
Meanwhile, 47% of hotels surveyed were not aware that Booking.com and Expedia had even made these changes. In July 2015, Booking.com and Expedia removed specific clauses in their contracts that prevented hotels from advertising lower room prices with other agents.
The CMA, along with the nine national competition agencies from the EU and the European Commission, took part in monitoring work which involved sending questionnaires to large samples of hotels in the UK and other EU member states as well as to OTAs and metasearch sites. The move is the latest efforts by the government to create a level playing field.
Back in 2010, the Office of Fair Trading launched a formal investigation into alleged price fixing in the online sale of hotel rooms. The investigation was triggered by accommodation wholesaler Skoosh, which claimed it was being put under pressure to offer rooms at a standard price by hotel groups.
Ann Pope, senior director at the CMA, added: “Research shows that hoteliers were not always aware of their rights when it came to pricing their rooms on large platforms such as Expedia and Booking.com. We want to raise hotels’ awareness of the changes that have been made and the freedom they now have over pricing, to help improve competition in the market.”
Last year, the CMA turned its focus towards bloggers and "influencers" (see below), urging the industry to be as transparent as possible when marketing.