Online hotel booking

CMA launches consumer law investigation into hotel booking sites.

Case timetable

Date Action
28 June 2018 Launch of enforcement action
27 October 2017 Investigation launched

Launch of enforcement action

28 June 2018: The CMA launched enforcement action against a number of hotel booking sites that it believes may be breaking consumer protection law. This action can include either securing legally binding commitments from those involved to change their business practices or, if necessary, the CMA can take them to court.

In addition to the enforcement activity, warning letters have been sent to a range of sites, demanding they review their terms and practices to make sure they are fair and comply with consumer protection law.

The CMA has also referred a number of concerns around online hotel booking sites’ price guarantees and other price promises to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The CMA has asked the ASA to consider whether statements like ‘best price guarantee’ or ‘lowest price’ mislead customers and what conditions must be met for companies to make such claims.

The CMA continues to assess the evidence gathered on the practices of other online hotel booking sites and could launch further enforcement cases in due course.

Investigation launch

27 October 2017: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) opened an investigation into hotel (including B&Bs and hostels) booking sites following concerns that some of their practices may breach consumer law.

The CMA is concerned about the clarity, accuracy and presentation of information on sites, which could mislead people and stop them finding the best deal. The CMA has written to companies across the whole sector requiring information to understand more about their practices.

This investigation will examine several practices, including:

  • Search results: how hotels are ranked after a customer has entered their search requirements, for example to what extent search results are influenced by other factors that may be less relevant to the customer’s requirements, such as the amount of commission a hotel pays the site.
  • Pressure selling: whether claims about how many people are looking at the same room, how many rooms may be left, or how long a price is available, create a false impression of room availability or rush customers into making a booking decision.
  • Discount claims: whether the discount claims made on sites offer a fair comparison for customers. For example, the claim could be based on a higher price that was only available for a brief period, or not relevant to the customer’s search criteria, for example comparing a higher weekend room rate with the weekday rate for which the customer has searched.
  • Hidden charges: the extent to which sites include all costs in the price they first show customers or whether people are later faced with unexpected fees, such as taxes or booking fees.

Watch our short animation illustrating the points above.

Call for your views

The CMA wants to understand the impact that these practices have on sites’ customers so is calling on people that use them, and hotels that advertise with them, to share experiences which could be relevant to the investigation.

Please send responses by email to onlinehotelbooking@cma.gov.uk by 15 December 2017.

Contacts

Assistant Project Director

Hayley Fletcher (hayley.fletcher@cma.gov.uk)

Project Director

Cecilia Parker Aranha (cecilia.parkeraranha@cma.gov.uk)

Senior Responsible Officer

George Lusty (george.lusty@cma.gov.uk)

Published 27 October 2017
Last updated 28 June 2018 + show all updates
  1. Details of enforcement action added.
  2. First published.