A report by consumer watchdog Which? claims that Booking.com is still misleading its customers with false information despite being told to make changes by regulators.
Earlier this year, Booking.com was told by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to review and change the way it ranks and displays rooms over concerns it was using pressure-selling tactics and hidden charges.
Which?’s investigation accuses Booking.com of continuing to give false accounts of the popularity of rooms. Booking.com responded saying to the BBC, it has “worked hard to implement the commitments” agreed with the CMA.
The site was one of six that agreed to the recommendations made by the CMA. Agoda, Hotels.com, Ebookers, Trivago and Expedia were among those chastised by the CMA and given a deadline until 1 September to reform their standards.
The consumer champion says that Booking.com is lagging behind the five other websites, who “appeared to have cleaned up their acts on the specific issue of pressure selling”. It said that Booking.com “was still flouting the rules” after the deadline had passed.
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In one example, Which? found 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 10 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 another example, The Banjo B&B in Liverpool showed “1 room left” – on a budget double room. When Which? clicked through there were four identical “budget double rooms” for the same price of £49.
Which? Travel’s Naomi Leach 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.”
A spokesperson for Booking.com said: “We work continuously to bring transparency, choice and value to travellers, constantly testing and improving the way in which we present our services online.
“We have worked hard to implement the commitments agreed with the CMA and maintain continuing collaboration and dialogue to inform ongoing enhancement of the consumer experience.”