CMA opens new investigation into hotel booking sites

Investigation

On 27 October the CMA opened a new investigation into hotel online booking sites. This follows the recent CMA investigation and report into digital comparison tools, to which the BHA and others submitted evidence (see our previous bulletin here).

The CMA is concerned as to the ‘clarity, accuracy and presentation’ of information provided to hotel customers booking online and is approaching both consumers and hotels for information about their experiences.

Questionnaire

Many hotels will by now have received this questionnaire, if not it can be found on the CMA’s website: Questionnaire for accommodation providers (Word) (27.10.17)

The deadline for submissions is 15th December but the BHA urges everyone to reply as fully and quickly as possible. This is an opportunity for all hotels, big and small and bed & breakfasts to describe their experiences.

If some practices are found to breach consumer laws this could result in enforcement action by the CMA.

CMA Areas of Focus

The CMA is interested in lack of clarity and/or inaccurate information provided online, especially in the following areas:

Search results and rankings: including factors other than the customers’ requirements which may influence results;

Pressure selling: such as claims about the availability of a specific price or room availability only for a limited period;

Discounts: whether calculated fairly;

Hidden charges: customers faced with unexpected fees not included in the initial price.

The CMA provides a clear explanation of the purpose of the investigation and these areas of particular interest, which can be found on it on its website at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cma-launches-consumer-law-investigation-into-hotel-booking-sites

There is also a brief video on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwhVLQaMt

Anonymity

The CMA has agreed that the BHA may submit responses anonymously on behalf hotels which prefer not to be identified. They have said that they would like to be able to contact hotels if they have questions or need further information. We propose that the BHA refers those questions to the hotel and forwards the reply to the CMA.

The CMA’s guidelines on use of direct responses can be found at: Use of information submitted by respondents (27.10.17)

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