The UK association of small accommodation providers has complained to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and to the European Commission alleging Booking.com and Expedia engage in unfair and anti-competitive practices.
The Bed & Breakfast Association has also complained direct to Booking.com demanding it cease a marketing campaign advertising ‘Free Cancellation’ for consumers.
Writing for Travel Weekly Europe today, B&B Association chairman David Weston describes the relationship of the big OTAs with his members as “verging on the abusive”.
He accuses Booking.com and Expedia of enticing consumers with “biased” search results, “false discounts” and creating “false urgency” through misleading claims, and argues: “The imbalance of power is extraordinary.”
In an email to Booking.com, Weston complained: “The clear message is: book what you want through Booking.com and don’t worry because you can cancel it later free.
“This promotion of casual cancellation has led to a perception that it is OK to make several alternative bookings and cancel the ones you don’t want, that the hotel or B&B will pick up the tab.
“It has already resulted in our members seeing significantly higher cancellation rates via yourselves than other channels, and vastly higher than in direct bookings (where cancellation rates in our sector have typically been negligible).
“Your own team tell B&Bs to live with the fact that one booking in every five will cancel (your figure).”
Weston told Booking.com: “Our members are daily faced with clients who assume cancellation is free.
“Our members routinely get calls from your team pressurising them to waive cancellation fees due under the contract. (Where a B&B has to cancel a booking, your team rigorously enforce your rules).
“We consider this an abuse of the ‘partnership’ between accommodation owners and Booking.
“Causing financial damage in this way is not the action of a partner. It is the opposite of the actions a responsible ‘agent’ of the accommodation owner would pursue.
“Please do not underestimate the depth of feeling your outrageous advertising has aroused.”
Weston said: “We are calling on Booking.com to stop running these ads now, and any campaign aimed at promoting late and free cancelations.”
He told Travel Weekly: “I’m amazed they can get away with what they do. When we showed our evidence to MEPs in Brussels they were astonished.”