Online search and booking websites consultation closed 15 Dec 17.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have announced an investigation into the practices being used in online search and booking websites such as online travel agents (OTAs) and meta search engines (MSEs).   Their investigations involve a public consultation looking at the experiences of both accommodation providers and customers using booking websites as a sales or purchase tool.  Both closed for comment on 15 December 2017.

We would urge you to ensure that your local providers are passed the accommodation business consultation  link and that they are encouraged to participate before the looming deadline in this important investigation.  There is significant anecdotal evidence to suggest that many, particular smaller, local providers are deeply unhappy about booking websites.  This is their one and only passing opportunity to try and do something proactive about it.  CMA questionnaire-for-accommodation-providers-online-hotel-booking

You may also wish to consider how best, the public could be engaged locally in the customer consultation.  Access the full CMA consultation page  here .

British Destinations and the Tourism Alliance are also seeking comments from destination managers and via you, your local businesses for use in the Tourism Alliance and, if it proves appropriate, the British Destinations, formal responses to CMA.  Your comments need to be with me by no later than Wednesday 1 December so I can get them consolidated and to Kurt Janson by his deadline of 4 December.  The sooner I have your comment the better.

The investigation is looking at issues like how search results are ranked, for example, whether factors like levels of commission paid are distorting the ranking process?  Other issues include the use of undue or false pressure selling techniques, inaccurate or deceptive discount claims, lack of clarity on total cumulative costs or the inclusion of hidden extra charges.  In addition we would like to ensure that issues around market dominance, costs of engagement, limitations on participation, impacts on regulatory frameworks, policing of quality and other standards, freeloading on destination marketing efforts and a raft of other wider impacts on destination management are all adequately aired; albeit that these issues are not necessarily at the heart of an investigation that is essentially looking in to fair competition practices and accuracy of marketing claims.

The B&B Association submitted a formal complaint to CMA in August 2017. Their briefing note on this provides some more useful background information: