Booking.com and the Expedia group have improved the presentation of the information for consumers regarding their offers on their websites. With these changes, they now comply with the basic principles of consumer law. This has been the result of actions taken by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) together with the other European consumer authorities and the European Commission. Similar arrangements had previously already been made with Booking.com. These now also apply to the Expedia group. Over the next few months, other platforms that offer tour packages, flights, and accommodations will also be reminded of their responsibility to comply with EU consumer protection rules.
Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, Member of the Board of ACM, adds: “This is a wonderful outcome for consumers. With correct and clear information, they are better able to make comparisons between different offers. And it also helps create a more level playing field between platforms in the digital economy. Thanks to the collaboration between the European regulators, we were able to achieve this result.”
What changes did Booking and Expedia implement?
Booking.com and the Expedia group will now be clearer about the following aspects:
- The selection process behind the search results;
- Certain search results are given a higher ranking because the providers offering them have paid for that higher ranking;
- The total price of the accommodation includes all unavoidable costs;
- The availability of rooms on certain dates: no more suggestions of artificial scarcity;
- Deals must be genuine deals;
- Prices, for example, a price cannot be presented as a discount if that is not the case;
- If the host is a professional or a private person.
These changes have already been implemented on the websites of Booking.com and the Expedia group.
The arrangements with Booking.com were already made in late-2019, and had subsequently been implemented. The arrangements with the Expedia group were made and implemented in 2020. In order to make sure that the entire sector complies with consumer protection rules, the European consumer authorities over the next few months will make similar arrangements with other online providers of tour packages, flights, and accommodations.
The European consumer authorities and the European Commission work together if businesses are active in multiple EU countries. With regard to Booking.com, ACM took the lead, in part because their headquarters is located in the Netherlands. With regard to the Expedia group, ACM and the Hungarian consumer authority took the lead together.
The digital economy and online misleading practices
Dutch society is undergoing fundamental changes as a result of digitalization. Businesses offer online services and products that are now part of our daily lives. Digitalization produces enormous benefits and innovation, but it also carries risks. People and businesses should be protected against the risks of digitalization. They should be able to navigate online markets with confidence. Therefore, the digital economy is one of the key priorities on ACM’s Agenda. ACM recently published guidelines, in which ACM explained at what point persuasion of consumers turns into misleading behavior. These commitments are in line with these guidelines and the rules of thumb for online platforms.