As recently reported in the Independent by Simon Calder The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an investigation into the booking practices of hotel websites, the reason being that they ‘may’ be misleading customers through digital-opacity-tactics.
In this article, we will be looking into the key points raised by the Independent and CMA, and how Gomingo was built to try and avoid these features in an attempt to create a transparent and trustworthy marketplace.
The authority has stated that “clarity, accuracy and presentation of information” is their reason for the investigation. Sites such as Booking.com and Expedia (which owns Hotels.com, Agoda and the comparison website Trivago) are the possible culprits.
The CMA has outlined four aspects which will drive the investigation. These being, how search results are displayed, the visibility of said results, pressure selling and discounts.
The CMA is stating that some “search results are influenced by other factors that may be less relevant to the customer’s requirements, such as the amount of commission a hotel pays the site”. Almost inciting a behind the scenes bidding war between the big hotels and hoteliers. A monetary tussle to gain visibility with very little essence of customer priority. Raising the question, are you seeing what you’re actually searching for? Or, are you being shown? Gomingo combats this through price transparency, every host is charged the same amount (10%) no hidden charges; in the launch phase, our fees are discounted completely for an initial 6 month period. What you search for is what you get, no priority is bought or extended commission factors in place. To gain a presence on the Gomingo front page you can use the money you will save from our low (below market) commission to drop the price of your room and appear on our home page.
Secondly, the CMA is looking into what they call “pressure selling”. Sites such as Booking.com and Expedia will alert customers with messages such as “Only three rooms left” or “10 people are viewing this room right now” urging the customer to complete their booking faster by giving them the impression they are short of time and could miss out on a deal. The authority states that this can “create a false impression of room availability” and “rush customers into making a booking decision”. Gomingo only shows you what is available and it’s as simple as that. We want the customer to discover the right accommodation in their own time, not to be funnelled into decisions by possibly misleading messages.
The next part of the CMA’s investigation is the ever desirable discount. “For example, the claim could be based on a higher price that was only available for a brief period, or not relevant to the customer’s search criteria, e.g. comparing a higher weekend room rate with the weekday rate for which the customer has searched.” Gomingo does not restrict hosts to work under comparison rates, we let them decide their own rates and have three pre-set offers to choose from, applicable to all users. This gives complete control to the hotelier/ host and improves the quality of search results for the customer.
The fourth and final part of the investigation by the CMA is looking into hidden charges. “The extent to which sites include all costs in the price they first show customers or whether people are later faced with unexpected fees, such as taxes or booking fees.” A truly frustrating event if you’ve been unfortunate enough to experience it. The fact that this problem has been persistent enough to warrant an investigation is baffling, as it’s bound to leave a sour taste in the mouth of any traveller. Raising the question, how has this obvious case of customer dissatisfaction been able to continue for a lengthy period of time? Only now gaining the attention of an official board. One question too late perhaps. On a more positive note, Gomingo is completely upfront with no hidden charges and we actually show our fees right under the price of the room so the user knows exactly for what and how much they are going to pay.
Gomingo was set out with the mission of creating a “trustworthy, price-conscious marketplace where the hotelier/host has full control, our easy to use platform will give the customer a transparent and enjoyable experience.”
Whether or not the travel giants are guilty of the proposed accusations or not, the customer experience is being muddied by superfluous false impressions. Will the giants bow down and conform regardless? Will companies like Gomingo take the reins and set a new example of how the online travel booking market should operate?
Let us know your thoughts! Do you agree with this investigation? Have you experienced one of the points of investigation in your own booking journey? Leave a comment and share your experience.