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Britain's competition watchdog to investigate hotel booking sites
October 27, 2017 / 6:45 AM / in a month

Britain's competition watchdog to investigate hotel booking sites

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s competition regulator said on Friday it would investigate hotel booking websites over its concerns that they did not help people find the best deal and were potentially breaking consumer law.

Visitors browse at the stand of global online travel brand Expedia during the International Tourism Trade Fair (ITB) in Berlin, Germany, March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it was concerned about the clarity, accuracy and presentation of information on sites, which could mislead consumers.

Major hotel booking site operators include U.S. companies Expedia (EXPE.O), Booking.com,which is owned by The Priceline Group (PCLN.O), Hotels.com and Germany’s Trivago, which is majority owned by Expedia.

The CMA said it would examine how hotels were ranked, for example whether results were influenced by how much commission a hotel pays over the customer’s requirements, and the use of pressure selling, such as claims about how many rooms were left.

The logo of online accommodation booking website Booking.com is pictured at the International Tourism Trade Fair (ITB) in Berlin, Germany, March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

It also had concerns over the discounts advertised for the rooms and hidden charges, including taxes and booking fees.

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said around 70 percent of people looking for a hotel last year used the sites and they should all be confident they were getting a good deal.

“To do this, sites need to give their customers information that is clear, accurate and presented in a way that enables people to choose the best deal for them,” he said.

“But we are concerned that this is not happening and that the information on sites may in fact be making it difficult for people to make the right choice.”

If the CMA finds that sites’ practices or claims are false or misleading and are breaking consumer law, it can take enforcement action.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by Costas Pitas

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