Hotel booking site Booking.com is continuing to mislead customers by using pressure selling tactics, despite a crackdown by regulators, says Which? Travel.
The consumer champion has published results of an investigation that found Booking.com is still advertising “only one room left” deals that do not accurately represent the deals on offer.
The site was one of six given a warning by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) back in February. The regulator gave Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, Ebookers and Trivago a deadline of 1 September to put an end to harmful practices.
These included: not displaying the full cost of hotel rooms upfront; giving a false impression of rooms’ popularity; not being clear about the role commission plays in how search results are ordered; and engaging in high pressure sales tactics.
While the other five websites seem to have curbed their bad behaviour when it comes to pressure selling, spot checks undertaken by Which? indicated that five out of 10 of Booking.com’s “only one room left on our site” claims did not give an accurate picture of availability.
One example found by Which? was The Banjo B&B in Liverpool, which had the tag “one room left” for a budget double room on the results page. However, when researchers clicked through, there were four identical budget double rooms for the same price of £49 still available.
Which? Travel’s Naomi Leach said: “We found clear evidence that Booking.com has not yet sufficiently cleaned up its act and is flouting the rules on pressure-selling, which could lead to millions of consumers being rushed into making a booking.
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“It must now provide cast-iron guarantees that it won’t continue to mislead holidaymakers with these unscrupulous practices, otherwise the regulator will have to step in with strong action to bring it into line.”
A Booking.com spokesperson told The Independent: “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.
“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.
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“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.”
A CMA spokesperson said: “Thanks to CMA action, people booking hotels online can now do so with more confidence after major websites and big hotel chains agreed to clean up their act. We are aware of this isolated issue with Booking.com and have already raised it with the site. They have assured us it will be quickly fixed. If we find that Booking.com or any other hotel booking sites use misleading statements then we will not hesitate to take further action.”