With Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Hotel comparison websites offer to take the hassle out of searching for best value accommodation but instead of saving you money they could leave you out of pocket.
One man who recently came to Consumer Protection had paid $137 above the quoted room rate using an American-based comparison site to book a hotel stay in Mandurah – charges, supposedly for various fees including cleaning, were added prior to confirmation and payment, in what is commonly known as drip pricing.
Although accommodation comparison websites claim to save consumers the trouble of trawling through lots of different hotel websites, you shouldn’t use one comparison site in isolation. They can be a handy tool to whittle a list down to the top four or five hotels you would like to stay in within your budget. But then check out other comparison sites and importantly the hotel websites directly (or even by calling their front desk) to apply a multiple quote system.
Be aware the top result on a comparison website isn’t always the best deal available to you – shopping around can mean you find a more suitable option for cheaper.
Think about where the site is based and how that may affect your ability to get redress – Australian consumer laws can be harder to apply if the site is overseas.
Review the customer reviews. Does the site need proof from a reviewer that they stayed at the accommodation and if not, how can you trust the reviews?
Beware of drip pricing, where fees are loaded on toward the end of an online transaction when you’re already in the mindset of going ahead with the booking.
Use a credit card, so you have a chargeback option if you don’t get what you paid for – for example you show up at the hotel and there is no booking or the room available is not as described, such as two single beds instead of a one king size.
There’s been a lot of publicity about booking direct with hotels versus third party accommodation sites and the ACCC has been taking action – read about that at www.accc.gov.au
Bad industry practices exposed previously include comparison websites stopping their hotel clients from offering cheaper rates to consumers booking directly with the hotel and the highlighting of hotels that had paid additional fees, even if those hotels didn’t offer the best deal for the consumer.