Hotel booking sites agree to end 'dodgy tactics' after UK investigation

Six of the biggest online hotel booking websites have agreed to end "dodgy tactics" following a major investigation.

Britain's consumer watchdog found they routinely engaged in pressure selling, misled consumers over discounts and prioritised hotels that paid the most commission.

But will New Zealanders reap the benefits?

They certainly talk the talk, but whether we can trust what hotel booking sites are saying has become increasingly concerning for consumer watchdogs.

"There are lots of ways essentially they mislead you into paying for a room that may or may not be the cheapest room," says Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin.

Now six of the biggest, including Expedia,,, Agoda, E-bookers and Trivago, have all agreed to overhaul their potentially 'misleading' sales tactics by September.

"They're agreeing to change under pressure, because if they don't change, they'll shut them down," Ms Chetwin says. "So I think they're doing the very least they can to stay viable."

The changes include not using pressure tactics such as 'pop-ups' where it appears other people are looking at the same room, but in reality, probably for different dates.

They've also agreed not to post misleading discounts, such as comparing the price of a single room to a luxury one, and being transparent about how search results are ranked - often those already sold out are listed at the top.

The companies will also be required to display all charges up-front.

Auckland University Marketing Professor Michael Lee says more transparency will be a good thing for both customers and companies.

"In the long-term, by taking these high-pressure sales tactics off, people may trust these platforms more."

The Commerce Commission wouldn't indicate any plans it may have to follow the UK's lead in taking action against the hotel booking sites, which has disappointed Consumer NZ.

"Well they've certainly got the teeth to do it, but whether they want to use them or not is the other thing," Ms Chetwin says. "We just have to hope they do; we certainly have complained to them."

Turning that complaint into real change for Kiwis is perhaps not quite as simple as it seems.