Expedia in the Dock Over Hotel Bookings
Wednesday 01 June 2011
Legal proceedings have begun against a number of major hotel booking web sites for publishing false and misleading information on their sites.
In the dock are the big US site Expedia, alongside two of its other major subsidiary sites, Tripadvisor.com and Hotels.com.
They are accused by Synhorcat, an action group of hotel owners, of dishonest commercial practices, including the communication of false tariffs, and false information on the availability of hotel rooms.
Following an investigation by French trading standards officers (DGCCRF), Syhorcat has now been joined in its legal action by the French government.
The main accusations are that:
- The sites are listing hotels with whom they have no contract
- They publicise promotions that do not exist
- They knowingly give incorrect star ratings
‘We are not opposed to opinion sites such as Tripadvisor, or reservation sites such as Expedia and Hotels.com, but we condemn certain of their practices’, says Didier Chenet, the president of Synhorcat.
It seems that one of the practices used is the rerouting of clients from hotels they seek to use, to those on the network of the booking site.
‘If a hotel does not have a contract with Expedia, the site responds that the hotel is full, and transfers the customer to a hotel which is on their network’, says Didier Chenet.
Not only are the hotels listed on the sites without the knowledge of the hotel itself, but the promotional offers, with reductions of up to 75%, are completely false, based upon inflated standard prices.
It is also alleged that the sites mislead customers into thinking they may be talking on the phone to the hotel reception desk, when in fact they are in communication with their own booking service, who may seek to book them into another hotel on the network.
According to figures from Synhorcat, around 50% of hotel bookings are made on-line.
Synhorcat do not claim that the only culprits of these alleged malpractices are Expedia, but that the size of the group makes them an important target for action.
In addition to the legal action, trading standards officers in France are also undertaking a separate investigation into alleged false opinions placed on such sites as Tripadivsor.
Expedia have been unwilling to comment publicly on the allegations.