The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has set out its dos and don'ts for hotel booking sites after announcing a crackdown on ‘unacceptable' practices earlier this month.
The principles address issues such as failure to disclose the effect of payments on search results, misleading reference prices, misleading presentation of prices and misleading popularity and availability statements.
They apply to any business offering online accommodation booking services. This includes online travel agents (OTAs), metasearch engines, big hotel chains and individual hotels offering online booking.
Companies that don't meet the obligations by 1 September 2019 risk facing enforcement action by the CMA.
The guidelines include:
• Prominently tell customers if the money you earn on bookings or clicks affects the order of results the customer sees.
•Don't present something as a discount - by using 'strikethrough' prices or savings claims - unless the offer gives a real saving on a like-for-like basis.
•If making a 'was/now' discount claim, make it clear what the 'was' price relates to - was it for different stay dates or different occupancy?
•Be upfront about unavoidable fees, charges and taxes and always give the total price.
•When making statements about availability, tell the whole story, for example: "XX people have viewed this property in the last 30 minutes for different dates";"destination Y is XX% booked on this site for your dates"; and "only X rooms left at this price on this site".