Why are hotel booking sites untrustworthy – which ones? New

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Vacationers should always beware of questionable sales tactics when using hotel booking sites. Travel warned.

Agoda, Booking.com, eBookers, Expedia, Hotels.com and Trivago have been ordered to phase out questionable practices following an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

But which one? Travel has discovered that all of these questionable practices always take place before the summer vacation season. While sites have until September 1 to phase out these practices, vacationers risk being left behind if they book before that date.

Video: the pitfalls of booking hotels to beware of


For businesses you trust, check out the results of our best and worst hotel booking sites.

Don’t be fooled by discounts

We’ve found that some sites are muddying the waters with misleading “was / now” discount claims.

A standard room advertised at a reduced price might seem like a good deal, but it’s less convincing when you find that the savings were calculated by comparing the rates for standard and deluxe rooms.

The standard room is not for sale at all – it’s just cheaper than a suite.

Trivago had an equally creative approach to discounts. When we reviewed the Mill̩sime de Paris hotel via Expedia Рas reported by Trivago Рit claimed a saving of 63% (though this was only the case if you compare it to the most expensive price available on another site, rather than the average).

And it’s getting worse and worse. When we clicked the ‘more expensive’ site was actually offering the same room for £ 240- £ 4 cheaper than Expedia. So not only does Trivago make incorrect rebate claims, it costs you money.

From September 1, all savings must be real or Trivago could end up in court.

Find the real search results

Once you’ve entered your destination and dates, don’t assume that the most relevant hotels show up first in search results.

Properties pay extra for a prominent position at the top of the page and it’s not always clear to vacationers.

On eBookers and Expedia, it’s all too easy to miss the word “sponsored” in paid ads. Meanwhile, the only clue on Booking.com is a yellow thumbs-up icon. Hover your mouse over it and a pop-up explains that this hotel “might pay Booking.com a little more” – but only if you bother to read the blurb.

The CMA says booking sites must clearly differentiate between sponsored and unsponsored listings before the deadline.

Until then, you can filter the searches by price or by location. This will remove sponsored links from the site.

Ignore selling under pressure

Some 44% of which? Members admitted that Booking.com’s “only one room left on our site” prompt would influence their decision to book.

However, when we clicked, in some cases there were over 50 (slightly different) rooms available.

For example, if you threw yourself into the last double bedroom (with private external bathroom) at the Balmore guest house in Edinburgh, you might be upset to learn that there were seven other double bedrooms available (with private bathroom) for the same price.

When it says there is one room left, it means a room that is exactly the same quality, occupancy, and price as this one, whether or not there are several dozen similar rooms that are will do just as well.

The AMC requires sites to tell the “whole story” and not to use false or misleading claims about popularity and availability. Until then, take prompts like this, along with “x number of people watching” with a pinch of salt.

Beware of hidden costs

This is the classic trap: You’re dragged into a cheap package price, only to find devious fees – such as resort fees or resort taxes – added to checkout later.

For the most part, the sites have become more transparent about prices. However, we still found Agoda fooling customers in April.

Take the Grand Hyatt New York Hotel for £ 189 a night. When we clicked on the checkout page, a £ 30 hotel tax and service charge suddenly materialized.

And that’s not all. The fine print revealed that a ‘destination fee’ of £ 27 would also be levied at the property. Suddenly that nightly rate had climbed by £ 57, a 30% increase.


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