CMA found Expedia's practices potentially misleading to customers, including undisclosed fees, presenting some properties as discounted without indicating the real price, and better placement in search results for accommodations paying a specific fee.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) opened an investigation into hotel booking sites, including Expedia, due to concerns that some of their practices may breach consumer law. The CMA found that some of the practices used by these booking sites were potentially misleading to customers. One of the concerns highlighted by the CMA was that consumers were not aware that accommodation establishments paying a specific fee to Expedia appeared in a better position in the "preferred" search results. This may have led to customers booking accommodation based on its placement in the search results rather than its quality or suitability for their needs. The CMA also found that Expedia was presenting "lower price available" on search results on its website to highlight specific offers where a lower price was available to customers who signed up for a member's program. However, Expedia presented many properties as "discounted," referring to a standard price provided by the accommodation provider without indicating that this price was the real price applicable by the property. This may have misled customers into thinking they were getting a better deal than they actually were. Another issue found by the CMA was that Expedia did not always include all fixed charges, such as local taxes, in the prices that appeared in the search results. This meant that customers were not getting an accurate representation of the total cost of their booking. As a result of the investigation, Expedia Group has improved its accommodation offer presentation to align with EU consumer law.
Expedia Group has updated their accommodation offer presentation to comply with EU consumer law, displaying accurate information such as promoted offers, payment influences on rankings, availability, total prices including mandatory fees, genuine discounts, and host type.
European Commission and national consumer authorities and Expedia group
Press release - 18 December 2020
Related deceptive patterns
Forced action involves a provider offering users something they want - but requiring them to do something in return. It may be combined with other deceptive patterns like sneaking (so users don't notice it happening) or trick wording (to make the action seem more desirable than it is). Sometimes an optional action is presented as a forced action, through the use of visual interference or trick wording. In cookie consent interfaces, forced action is sometimes carried out through "bundled consent". This involves combining multiple agreements into a single action, and making it hard or impossible for a user to selectively grant consent.
Hidden costs involve obscuring or omitting additional fees, charges, or costs until the user is well into the purchasing or sign-up process. By that point, the user has already invested time and effort into the transaction and is more likely to proceed despite the unexpected costs.
Sneaking involves intentionally withholding or obscuring information that is relevant to the user (e.g. additional costs or unwanted consequences), often in order to manipulate them into taking an action they would not otherwise choose.
Covers various aspects of consumer transactions, including the sale of goods and services, digital content, unfair contract terms, and remedies for faulty goods.