Following an intervention of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), together with other European consumer authorities, Booking.com will apply changes to its website. Booking.com has committed to applying eight important changes in order to bring its website in line with consumer law. This will prevent consumers from being misled.
The adjustments in question include:
- Clarifying how search results are ranked, for example clarifying that certain search results are ranked higher because the providers of those accommodations have paid for these higher positions;
- The total price must be displayed including all unavoidable costs.
- Clear and correct information about the availability of rooms on certain dates; no suggestions of alleged scarcity;
- Special offers must genuinely be special offers;
- Ensuring that price comparisons presented as discounts represent genuine savings. For example, crossing out a price may give the impression that a discount is offered, whereas this is not always the case;
- Providing clear information about discounts, for example, by explaining the standard amount of a room as the basis for a discount;
- Presenting sold-out accommodations in the search results only if this matches the consumer’s search criteria;
- Making a clear distinction between private and professional providers.
Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, Member of the Board of ACM, explains: ‘By making its website clearer, Booking.com will prevent consumers from being misled. Booking.com thus takes responsibility. We expect the same from other platforms, so that all booking websites will compete on a level playing field. That is important for the confidence that consumers place in the digital economy. Consumers must be able to make choices based on clear and honest information online.’
Booking.com will adjust its website for all European consumers, and has indicated it will complete these changes by 16 June 2020.
The European consumer authorities and the European Commission work together when businesses are active in different EU member states. In this case, ACM took the lead, because Booking.com’s headquarters is located in the Netherlands.
The digital economy and online misleading practices
Dutch society is undergoing fundamental changes as a result of digitalization. Businesses offer 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 Booking.com’s commitments are in line with these guidelines.