UK regulators have said they could take hotel booking websites to court if they don’t address “widespread concerns” identified in a recent investigation.
The Competition and Markets Authority found that several sites had broken consumer protection law with some of their practices.
Chief among them was the way search results were displayed. The CMA said hotels might be ranked based on the commission they paid to site rather than how relevant they were to a customer’s requirement.
The watchdog also questioned the pressure selling tactics – how long a deal is available for and how ma many people are viewing the same room – and discount claims used by comparison sites.
Hidden charges, the bane of all travellers, also came under fire, with the investigation finding that the full cost might not always be what was shown in the first instance.
The CMA said it will be writing to the sites and asking them to take action to address its concerns. If they fail to do so, the regulator added it would not hesitate to take them to court.
A number of concerns have also been passed on to the Advertising Standards Authority to consider whether claims such as ‘best price guarantee’ or ‘lowest price’ are misleading and what conditions need to be met for companies to make such claims.
In response to the CMA’s investigation, industry giant Expedia said it aims to offer travel options "in transparent, clear and easy to understand ways".
It added: "Expedia will continue to engage with the CMA on these consumer matters, as it continues its inquiries in the travel sector."