Booking.com is continuing to mislead consumers with pressure selling tactics – despite a crackdown by regulators aimed at putting a stop to such unscrupulous practices.
That is according to a new investigation by consumer watchdog Which? Travel.
The organisation carried out spot checks on six websites ordered to make changes following enforcement action by the Competition & Markets Authority over concerns of pressure selling, misleading discount claims, the impact of commissions on search results and hidden charges.
The regulator concluded that practices such as giving a false impression of a room’s popularity or not displaying the full cost upfront could potentially break consumer protection law.
In response, the body gave the websites – Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers and Trivago – until September 1st to up their game.
But Which? Travel found Booking.com was still flouting the rules after the deadline passed, with five out of ten of its “only one room left on our site” claims failing to give an accurate picture of availability.
In one example, search results for the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge warned that just one “secret deal” room was available – a superior double room (with disability access) priced at £232.
However, after clicking through to the booking page, Which? scrolled down to find another ten superior doubles (with internal view) available for a cheaper rate of £226.
In total, 34 empty rooms were still available at the same hotel on the same night.
In contrast, the five other sites which were named and shamed by the Competition & Markets Authority appeared to have cleaned up their acts on the specific issue of pressure selling.
Agoda, for example, now tells customers: “We only have one left at this price.”
Naomi Leach from Which? Travel 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.
“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.”