This month, the Competition and Markets Authority finally decided to act against so called third party websites also known as online travel agents (OTAs).
It’s a subject I’ve talked about before and whilst they’re asking for some movement on the practices they use, in my opinion they’re not coming down on them hard enough.
The CMA have acknowledged, following a lengthy public consultation, as well as speaking with industry bodies, that they mislead the public. If you use a website like Booking.com and look at our B&B on there, several tactics are used to pressure sell you into booking with them and as quickly as possible. For example, you may be told that several people are looking at our B&B at the same time – in fact, one of those is you anyway, and the others could have looked at our B&B any time in the last week – so no need to rush your booking. It may also tell you we’ve been booked three times in the last hour – again this could actually mean in the last week.
Our rooms will have a warning note in red beside them that each room type is the last available which often sets in panic, but as each of our six rooms is one of a kind, it will only ever be the last room of that name available, even if we’re empty.
Recently I’ve also seen false discounts being advertised. It took me a while to work out why our rooms were so discounted but what it actually was showing was the difference between the highest room price and the lowest - so £189 now £129, wasn’t a £60 discount, it just meant we had one room priced at £189 but another room was £129. No discount was available on either room as these were our regular prices.
The Daily Mail published the following article on the subject:
Third party websites have another clause that unfortunately the CMA report did not rule on, even though it’s been outlawed in most other European countries already. We are not allowed to charge a cheaper price to our own guests on our own website than we charge on OTAs. This may sound ridiculous but they don’t want you to come direct to us under any circumstances and if it’s cheaper, you often will.
To get round this, we offer fantastic deals to our guests which are not publicly available to all by having our VIP Guest List. To join, you simply give us your email address by pressing the link at the bottom of any page of our website.
Joining up not only gives you 5% off our prices so you always book at the very best price, but includes a host of other benefits too. If you stay two nights or more you get a complimentary minibar in your room worth over £20. Our VIPs have a later check out, exclusive access to a local spa, a 20% discount on our bedding range from The Fine Bedding Company and several other great benefits.
See www.the25.uk/VIP for full details.
So next time you are looking for accommodation, whether it be with us or anyone else, by all means use third party sites as a search engine to find out who is in an area and if they have rooms available, but once you’ve made your choice, go to the accommodation direct to get a better deal. This means they don’t pay commission on your booking so invariably they’ll be happy to split the cost and make it cheaper for both you and them.