Saturday, October 20, 2018

Watchdog shows teeth over OTA pressure sales tactics

The consumer watchdog is investigating accommodation booking websites over their ‘one room left’ sales tactics.

Tourism Accommodation Australia says the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is investigating the relationship between accommodation providers and booking platforms following British moves to clamp down on misleading claims.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority announced a probe into hotel booking sites late last year, saying it was “concerned about the clarity, accuracy and presentation of information on sites”.

While the ACCC refuses to comment on potential investigations, it’s understood the Australian inquiry will examine areas such as hidden charges, search results and discount claims, with those operators found to mislead consumers  facing possible court action.

“[The ACCC] is closely watching the outcome of the European changes to rate parity and the UK Competition and Markets Authority investigation into whether sites are misleading consumers,” the tourism association’s CEO Carol Guiseppi told The New Daily.

“They are looking at … whether a false impression is created by claims about how many people are looking at the same room, how many rooms are left, and how long a price is available.”

 Last year, the ACCC took Viagogo to court over the Swiss company’s alleged breaches of Australian Consumer Law when reselling entertainment, music and sports tickets.

“Viagogo’s statements such as ‘less than 1% of tickets remaining’ created a sense of urgency for people to buy them straight away, when tickets may have still been available through other ticket sources,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

Wording found on accommodation booking sites such as ‘one room left’, ‘ten people are viewing this page’ and ‘in high demand’ will come under scrutiny from the consumer watchdog.

Online travel agencies Expedia and Booking.com use these kinds of phrases on their booking sites and will need to be able to substantiate the claims.

“We test many iterations of content as part of this optimisation process to ensure that the information displayed to users is relevant to their booking experience,” a Booking.com spokesperson told The New Daily.

Expedia Group said it would continue displaying availability claims on its websites.

About Kate Jackson

Kate Jackson
Kate Jackson is the editor of Accomnews. You can reach her at any time with questions or submissions: [email protected]

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One comment

  1. This has been my bone of contention with Booking.com. Our property has one small room and a variety of larger rooms however they continually advertise ‘only 1 room left’ because it is the lowest price even though there are plenty of other rooms available.

    My other bone of contention is that we are charged commission on the room rate including GST (which is no financial benefit to us) but there is no GST component in their fees so in effect we are paying a higher commission rate than we are led to believe.

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