By Cailey Rizzo
July 06, 2018
Alan Marsh/Getty Images

Alerts that there is only “one room left” on hotel booking sites are misleading and may not be true at all, according to a new investigation from a U.K. watchdog.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), a government competition regulator, released a report last week with the results of an eight-month investigation into hotel booking sites.

The report called out booking sites for “pressure selling.” These buy-now-or-pay-more deals may create a false impression of availability or rush customers into making a speedy purchase.

“Holidaymakers must feel sure they’re getting the deal they expected, whether that’s securing the discount promised or receiving reliable information about availability of rooms,” Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said in a statement. “It’s also important that no one feels pressured by misleading statements into making a booking.”

The investigation also concluded that the order of search results can be skewed. Hotels may appear earlier in searches simply because they’ve paid the site more in commission.

Other times, booking sites will tack on last-minute fees so the advertised “low price” is not what customers will actually pay.

The CMA declined to name specific sites partaking in the practice.

The regulator has sent alerts to booking sites to ensure they are advertising fair prices that comply with customer protection laws. “Our next step is to take any necessary action – including through the courts if needed – to ensure people get a fair deal,” Coscelli said.