How I was misled by Booking.com’s pricing
Booking.com advertised a room at $267 for three nights, which included my “Genius discount.” I booked this, but when the final rate came through, I was charged $330.
I complained to Booking.com.
They replied that not every property was on the Genius program.
I pointed out that they had advertised a Genius rate for this property.
They replied restating that the property was not in the Genius program and asked for a screenshot of the price. There was only one room of this description, so, of course, the advertisement had been taken down immediately I booked it. However, the other two rooms at the property were also advertised at the “discount” rate, which proved they were indeed advertising the property at the “discount” price. I sent them a copy of the screenshot.
They then claimed if the room was at a Genius rate, this would be shown throughout the booking process. It was not. It was only at the final stage of payment that the higher price showed, just before I clicked on it.
I replied that the room had been offered at the Genius rate, and if the property was not part of the program it was Booking.com’s error and they should provide the room at the advertised rate. Otherwise I considered it was misleading advertising.
Next they stated that the Genius discount only applied to the other two rooms, contradicting their earlier statement that the whole property did not participate in the program. This was in response to my screenshot of the “discount” rate for those two rooms.
I searched through advertisements from the time of booking and found one on another rate comparison site that showed that Booking.com had advertised the room at $89 a night (i.e., it would be $267 for three nights) .
They replied that the screenshot “did not clearly show the rate for 3 nights for the booked room type”. It seems to me that $89 a night is quite clearly $267….
I replied that I had provided the evidence and they should provide the room at advertised rate.
Booking.com did not respond.
Fed up with all the obfuscation, I cancelled the booking through Booking.com and rebooked direct with the property.
And this was where the misleading advertising became clear . The so-called “Genius discount” was not much of a discount at all . The property’s own price for the room was $90 a night, i.e. $270 for three nights!! I was told that Booking.com raise the price to cover their commission.
I have sent details of the case to the ACCC, and advised Booking.com of this . (ACCC will most likely just file it). I also note that Booking.com have had to make commitments to the EU about their pricing practices.
Perhaps you can investigate Booking.com’s pricing in more depth. This must surely be a prime candidate for one of next year’s Shonky awards.
I have full documentation of the case.