Dozens of booking sites and OTAs, including On the Beach, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Google and Skyscanner, as well as a host of major hotel brands have agreed to new “sector-wide” reforms to how they market their services and offers.
In total, 25 firms have agreed to change how they display information and have signed up to new principles in compliance with consumer protection law following a wide-ranging probe by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
Key tenets include not giving a false impression of the popularity of a room, and always displaying the full cost of a room upfront.
According to the CMA, most of the 25 have already made the necessary changes. However, Accor, IHG, Hilton, Marriott, Radisson Hotel Group and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts have requested more time to ensure UK customers are always shown the full cost of a room upfront when search for hotels abroad.
The CMA said it would “closely monitor” each firm’s progress to ensure the changes materialise “in a timely manner”.
It follows the CMA’s enforcement action earlier this year against six companies – Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers and trivago – taken in light of “serious concerns” the watchdog had around issues such as pressure selling, misleading discount claims and the effect commission has on how hotels are ordered on sites.
The CMA said it was concerned some of these practices could mislead people, stop them finding the best deal and potentially break consumer protection law.
All six firms have committed to “cleaning up their sites” and have made the agreed changes, the CMA said.
Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said: “People booking hotels online can now do so with more confidence thanks to the CMA’s action. Major websites and big hotel chains have agreed to clean up their act if they’ve been using misleading sales tactics, and have signed up to sector-wide consumer law principles on how to display important information to customers.
“The CMA will now be watching to make sure that these major brands, used by millions of people in the UK every year, stay true to their word. We will take action if we find evidence that firms are breaking consumer law.”
Any sites that fail to make changes, or where the CMA still have concerns people may be misled, will likely face further action, according to the watchdog.
The CMA added that as well as continuing to expect all booking sites and hotel chains to abide by its sector-wide principles, it would push for compliance with consumer protection law in the travel and tourism sector globally.
As part of this, it is co-leading an international project with other consumer enforcement agencies, which aims to tackle these issues on a global basis.
The full list of sites that have so far signed up to the CMA’s new guidelines are:
The CMA has also stressed not all the above firms engaged in the practices it seeks to clamp down on but had agreed to abide by the principles of the action.