11th May 2016

House of Lords Report calls for Urgent Online Travel Agents Investigation

A House of Lords report is demanding an urgent investigation into anti-competitive practices in the online travel sector. The report by a House of Lords Select Committee says the sector lacks accountability and transparency and should be scrutinised by competition authorities. Its recommendations were welcomed by the British Hospitality Association which helped provide evidence and opinion on the issues being investigated.

The BHA is urging the government to impose an outright ban on rate parity clauses which stop hotels offering lower rates than those on the online booking sites where they are listed.

Already illegal in France parity clauses were found to be anti-competitive in cases brought against Booking.com and HRS in Germany. In its evidence to the Committee, it said the market is now dominated by a few major players such as Booking.com and Expedia.

BHA Chief Executive stated: "These OTAs wield vast power and hold our industry hostage by commanding punitive rates of commission…”

The report, Online Platforms and the Digital Single Market, was published this week in response to an EU Commission consultation on how the largest online platforms use their market power. Among the accusations against OTAs is the claim that some are ripping off customers by using computer history data, via web cookies, to charge them more for holidays. Once they see a customer has repeatedly visited a site or viewed a particular holiday or hotel, they allegedly bump up prices.

It also called for consumer protection laws to force websites to fully disclose how they rank and present search results, publish ratings and reviews, and how and when they use personal data to determine prices.

Take a look at the next article to see how you can compete by offering your visitors a Price Promise guarantee to visitors that they will actually get the best rate by booking direct with you from the Shropshire Tourism website or from your own website.


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