Author Lauren Howells

An investigation is taking place to discover whether consumers are genuinely able to choose the best hotel deal for them on hotel booking websites and whether these sites could potentially be breaking consumer law, the Competition and Markets Authority has announced.

The CMA, the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority, has said that it is concerned about the “clarity, accuracy and presentation of information on sites”, which could not only potentially mislead people but could also prevent consumers from discovering the best deal and may possibly be breaking consumer law.

Investigation will scrutinise several practices

The investigation will scrutinise a number of practices, including how search results are ranked after consumers enter in their search terms and whether claims such as a certain number of people are looking at the same room as you, “create a false impression of room availability or rush customers into making a booking decision”.

People being asked to share their experienceshotel booking websites

The CMA has said that it has written to “companies across the whole sector”, in order to obtain more information so that it can gain a better understanding of hotel booking sites’ practices. People who use hotel booking sites, as well as hotels which advertise on them, are also being encouraged to share their experiences, in order to help with the investigation.

CMA could take enforcement action if hotel booking websites found to be breaking consumer law

The CMA made it clear that it could take enforcement action if it discovered that sites’ practices or claims were “false or misleading and are breaking consumer law”.

According to the CMA website, around 70% of people who were looking for more information on hotels last year, used these sites.

Chief Executive of the CMA, Andrea Coscelli, said that hotel booking websites offered “real potential” to help those looking to book their holidays to save time and money and those consumers should be confident that they were getting a good deal.

“To do this, sites need to give their customers information that is clear, accurate and presented in a way that enables people to choose the best deal for them. But we are concerned that this is not happening and that the information on sites may, in fact, be making it difficult for people to make the right choice,” he continued.

“That’s why we have started our investigation into this sector – to get to the bottom of these issues, see whether sites are breaking consumer law and make sure they help, not hinder, people searching for their next hotel room.”

Discount claims and hidden charges

The CMA has also said that it will be looking into whether discount claims made on sites “offer a fair comparison for customers” and how upfront these sites are with the prices that they first reveal to customers.

An update on this investigation is expected in spring next year.

For more information on how to get in touch with the CMA if you would like to tell it about your experiences and concerns regarding hotel booking websites, take a look at its website.