In Travel on Thursday 9th Aug, 2018

The sly tricks used by hotel booking sites to fool customers

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Booking accommodation online is often the best way to do it these days. It’s easy, fast and cheap. Well, at least that’s what the booking websites tell us.

While cruising through hotel rooms online, you may often see a warning that the room you are currently looking at is the last one available – while you could risk losing your chance to book it by waiting any longer.

But, is this simply a helpful warning or just a sneaky advertising tool?

The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) are currently eight-months in to an investigation concerning the selling tactics of hotel booking sites. During their assessment they discovered that many sites are simply “pressure selling”. 

Online booking sites use high demand warnings to urge customers to finalise their purchase when, in reality, the room is far from the last available. And many customers are known to fall for the advertising trap.

When you see the notice, it’s claimed it can automatically speed up your decision-making process. There’s no sleeping on a decision anymore!

The CMA is also looking into several other issues with online hotel booking sites such as search results, discount claims and hidden charges.

Certain hotel companies are known to pay comparison sites extra to ensure their rooms appear at the top of the search results no matter their relevance to the customers’ specific requirements. 

Sites will also market rooms as discounted when in reality they are simply showing the price for their most expensive room compared to the price for the room the customer has chosen, the site reports.

Hidden charges are also a growing issue when using hotel booking sites. It’s common for sites to lower their prices as far as they can go before adding on extras such as taxes and booking fees as soon as the customer is at the checkout. 

While these sly tricks may just seem like unethical buying incentives, hotel companies are actually breaking a number of consumer protection laws by openly advertising false statements.

The CMA has now launched their enforcement action against guilty sites and already sent out warning letters asking certain companies to re-evaluate their terms and practices to ensure they are in line with the relevant laws.

If they don’t make the change soon, the guilty parties risk being taken straight to court.

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