It is wonderful to have plenty of choice when planning a trip, and considering the options where to stay each night during the journey. Hotels, hostels, bed & breakfast places, bungalows at camp sites and private apartments or houses are only a click away at online booking sites. As many travelers have discovered, however, online booking services don’t always provide customers with correct information, causing a lot of problems during a trip. In the UK, a watchdog is investigating accommodation booking services.
BBC reports that the UK watchdog Competition and Markets Authority is investigating the major booking services, like Booking.com, Airbnb if they are conducting following shady practices, among other questionable practices:
Are tourists forced to pay unexpected extra charges such as taxes and booking fees later in the booking process.
What is really behind “alerts” that show how many people are looking at the same room, how many rooms are left, and how long a price is available.
How search result rankings are influenced by factors, such as how much commission a hotel pays the site.
Are discount claims true, or are weekday rates compared to a previous weekend rate.
I was fooled by Booking.com to reserve a private apartment in a city center. After paying for it on Booking.com, and without the possibility to cancel, the service told me that cleaning will cost extra. While checking in to the place, the representative who managed to property for the owner, told me that parking costs extra. None of this was mentioned in the product listing. Customer support modified the information in the listing after I contacted them but refused to reimburse me.
One of my colleagues stopped using Airbnb after she had been fooled by the host. The product listing included incorrect and misleading information about the location, environment and safety of the place. Airbnb did nothing to correct the misinformation.
This is the major problem with the online booking services that list private apartments: they do not verify the information hosts provide about their properties. Only when travelers pay for staying in a property, problems are discovered. Then, it is too late for guests who have paid the full price but don’t receive what was listed on the booking site.
Have you had any problems like these with hotels when you have made a reservation directly with the hotel? I haven’t.
It is about time that the booking services are properly investigated and told to behave. Until then, I am not using any of those online accommodation booking services, but I am reserving directly only.