ALMR to survey operators on online booking and comparison website amid rising concerns

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The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) is surveying operators on their experiences with open review and comparison websites. The survey comes after the news that the Competition and Market Authority has launched a probe into their practices.

The ALMR’s chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “Concerns have been growing among operators for some time about the apparently unregulated activities of online booking and comparison websites. Although this has been far more prevalent in the area of hotel bookings, bad practices are increasingly creeping into the restaurant world too, and the launch of this inquiry highlights just how seriously the concerns of operators are being taken.”

“This is not simply a matter of dealing with the occasional bad review – although there are questions for the websites to answer about anonymity, right of reply and authenticity of reviews. There are more pressing commercial points of concern, too, that we need to nip in the bud. These range from paid-for rankings and false reviews posted against offers to anti-competitive contract terms, such as rate parity clauses, best price clauses and commission payments linked to customer reviews, and compliance with ‘most favoured nation’ clauses, all of which restrict an operator’s ability to control their pricing and respond to the market and their customer needs.”

“We need to ensure that a free, fair and flexible regulatory framework exists which keeps pace with the way in which consumers are increasingly using technology so that operators and guests alike know that it can be trusted and that their interests are protected.” Nicholls said the inquiry was “a unique opportunity to address legitimate commercial concerns surrounding these sites”.

Operators are asked to complete a short survey about how online review and comparison sites have impacted their business by clicking here.

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