In pursuit of trying to convince consumers that booking direct is best, many accommodation operators run the risk of falling foul of the OFT by unwittingly participating in “Bait Advertising”.
So, what exactly is Bait Advertising?
The Queensland Government sums it up nicely. Here’s a snapshot for you:
Your advertising must give customers the ‘whole picture’. It must be factual; all discounts must be genuine and the overall impression of your advertising must not be misleading.
You can read the Queensland Government’s full explanation on advertising regulations for anyone who would like to dive deeper into this topic.
Recently many “state of the art” website booking links have appeared on the scene, claiming to do all sorts of miraculous things for the accommodation industry, yet some of them risk falling into the category of Bait Advertising.
Please see the below example from a hotel website:
In this example, the banner at the top promises “real-time price checking”, setting the expectation of continuously adjusted prices according to the OTA offerings available at that exact time. However, misleadingly, the banner only ever shows the price for a studio room. If a consumer selects the 1-bedroom Apartment option, the banner prices don’t change. The room prices, other than the studio room, also don’t adjust according to what the OTA’s are offering. However, they still do display a ‘best rate guarantee’ message at the bottom of the page, attached to each of the room types.
In this example, Booking.com website advertised $240, Expedia $240 and Agoda $216 or $178 for members – the “best rate” for the 1 bedroom shown on the hotel website was actually $250 – more expensive than any of the others!
Under the ACCC regulations, this could fall into the category of Bait Advertising or false and misleading conduct as the indicative Best Price Guarantee did not state it was only for a specific room type. This leads the consumer to believe that the price they pay by booking direct is the best price available to them compared to other booking sites, when this is clearly not the case.
Of course, if it were to display “Comparative to Studio pricing”, and perhaps included additional information regarding the Best Price Guarantee, it would be far less likely to be considered misleading.
These examples are very easy to uncover. Take a little time to do your own research when approached by a provider promising you miracles. You may find they are instead delivering a potential lawsuit for undertaking false and misleading practices. The onus to do the right thing is on you, the retailer of the goods, not the supplier of the software that displays this information.
For more information on this topic please feel free to reach out to email@example.com
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