ManagementMarketingTourism

Agoda ad rekindles ‘bait and switch’ fears

An online travel agency censured overseas for questionable advertising tactics is allegedly running ‘bait and switch’-style promotions in Australia.

Agoda, a Singapore-based subsidiary of Booking Holdings, was among six OTAs named by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority in 2019 over so-called ‘sharp’ practices, including misleading discount claims.

The company joined Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com, ebookers, and trivago in agreeing to comply with the UK regulatory authority’s transparency requirements and signing undertakings to stop any “pressure selling, false discount claims and hidden charges”.

However, in an advert described by the Accommodation Association of Australia as “very, very concerning”, it seems Agoda is flouting Australian consumer law in failing to employ those practices Down Under.

The following advert for the Best Western Ipswich appeared in The Guardian Australia just before New Year.

When the consumer clicked through, they were taken to the following page advertising the listing at a more expensive price.

Advertising a headline price, then adding extra charges later in the booking process, constitutes drip pricing and is illegal in Australia.

The advert has been referred to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which in 2015 took Airbnb, eDreams, Jetstar and Virgin to court for engaging in drip pricing tactics.

However, the ACCC is already embroiled in an expensive and time-consuming prosecution of Trivago and industry insiders speculate the consumer watchdog is unlikely to proceed down the same road with Agoda.

It is, though, due to release the findings of a long-running investigation into OTAs and the contracts they impose on accom operators.

And an Accommodation Association spokesperson confirmed this week: “We continue to have discussions with the ACCC and government on a range of these issues.”

In October, AccomNews reported a US-based travel platform was flouting Australian consumer law with its own version of drip pricing.

Guest Reservations was charging significant fees on top of advertised room rates, a practice which is legal, if contentious, in the US. All online businesses are required to abide by the laws of the country they operate in, wherever they are based.

Agoda has been approached for comment.

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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5 Comments

  1. No surprised there, as an accommodation provider we dropped Agoda for giving guests a discount that they paid just so they would book with them. Even now we are not completely free from them because they advertise or property on their site and it diverts to Booking.com, very misleading for guests.

  2. My suggestion to hoteliers is to drop Agoda.
    They will still be around as they will get their inventory from Booking.
    But when there back they tend to behave better and you will be paying less commission.
    Agoda should be taken to task by the ACCC, but their efforts would be better spent
    pursuing the elephant in the room – GOOGLE

    1. We doubled the price we listed on Agoda, but alas we then see them getting rooms from booking.com , so now we just cancel any booking we get from them

  3. Avoid Agoda.

    We manage a number of properties and were getting a few Agoda bookings via booking.com. We thought a direct listing for one of our properties might be worthwhile, but quickly reversed that decision.

    Whether they have a direct listing or are reselling booking.com availability, there are no end of problems for both the guest and the property. The main problems with this company are:

    * Guest have no way of contacting them. They ignore emails and are impossible to call.
    * They do not provide properties with ANY guest contact details. No phone number or email address. Infact they actively redact any attempt to share contract details via the messaging platforms. This makes servicing the booking impossible, especially if the property provides self check-in, is awaiting payment or is trying to establish covid tracing details.
    * They often discount rates below agreed prices, thereby highjaking the google hotel listing and stealing direct bookings. This from a company that insists on price parity.
    * They often override cancellation terms. Putting more stringent terms in place than the booking.com listing being resold. Agoda pockets the difference in the case of cancellation. In one case my first night cancellation was sold as non-refundable.
    * booking.com are not interested in addressing any issues with agoda bookings, even though they have the same parent company.

    I have asked booking.com to stop agoda from reselling my listings, but they claim this is not possible. I call BS.

    Regards
    Stephen M

  4. We have a Government who won’t legislate against these multi nationals and hold them to task e.g Facebook backdown. If companies like Agoda don’t comply simple solution block them from the internet in Australia. Problem solved and any others who have the same intentions to rip us off will quickly get the message. Comply or Die on the Net. If they can’t comply with our rules then remove them. Australian companies can’t break the law so why should Multinationals get away with it.

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