Booking.com ‘still duping consumers’ despite regulator demands

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Booking.com is “continuing to mislead consumers” with false claims about the availability of hotel rooms months after regulators demanded the website improve its standards, according to a report.

It was one of six hotel booking sites that agreed earlier this year to make major changes to end misleading sales tactics and hidden charges after an investigation by the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA).

The regulator said Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, Ebookers, Trivago and Expedia were all guilty of such practices, which could give a false impression of room availability, popularity and its total cost.

Booking.com advises customers of the availability and popularity of hotel rooms. Pic: Booking.com
Image: Booking.com advises customers of the availability and popularity of hotel rooms. Pic: Booking.com

Each of the websites was given until 1 September to up standards, but a report by the consumer watchdog Which? has found that Booking.com “was still flouting the rules” after the deadline had passed.

Naomi Leach, from the Which? Travel team, said it had “found clear evidence” that customers were still being misled, with millions potentially being “rushed into making a booking” because of pressure-selling tactics.

One example cited in the report are search results for the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, which warned users that there was only one “secret deal” room available – a superior double room with disability access priced at £232.

But after clicking through to the booking page, Which? scrolled down to find another 10 superior double rooms available for a cheaper rate of £226, with a total of 34 empty rooms still available on the same night.

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In another case, The Banjo B&B in Liverpool showed “1 room left” on a search for budget double rooms.

Which? says it clicked through to find four identical “budget double rooms” for the same price of £49.

The report says Booking.com is lagging behind the five other websites investigated by the CMA, adding that it “has not gone far enough” in making improvements to its services.

In a statement, a Booking.com spokesman told Sky News that the company had “worked hard to implement the commitments agreed with the CMA”.

“At Booking.com we work continuously to bring transparency, choice and value to travellers, constantly testing and improving the way in which we present our services online,” they said.

“We have worked hard to implement the commitments agreed with the CMA and maintain continuing collaboration and dialogue to inform ongoing enhancement of the consumer experience.

“This includes implementing new ways to surface information to consumers about the availability and popularity of specific properties, with this messaging currently being optimised as part of that iterative process.

“As a company which puts customers at the heart of everything we do, we never stop looking at how we can optimise the consumer experience on our website and mobile apps, as well as working closely with authorities like the CMA on industry-wide improvements.”

Booking.com ‘still duping consumers’ despite regulator demands

Booking.com is “continuing to mislead consumers” with false claims about the availability of hotel rooms months after regulators demanded the website improve its standards, according to a report. It was one of six hotel booking sites that agreed earlier this year to make major changes to end misleading sales tactics and hidden charges after an investigation by the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA).

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