Trivago admits misleading advertisements in Australia, faces big fine!

Trivago is one of the leading meta-search sites for hotel bookings. They were sued in Australia earlier this year for misleading advertisements and now have admitted that their “best deal” isn’t really the best deal, but the deal that earns them the highest commission! Find out what happened and how to make sure you find the best deal when you are searching for hotels!

Meta-search sites like Trivago, Tripadvisor or Hotelscombined, search hundreds of hotel booking sites, compare the results and show them to you to help you find the best deal for a hotel room. That makes them extremely useful to make sure you get the best deal, without endless searching. All of them make money from commissions they receive for sending you to booking sites, at no cost to you. But some are more honest about it than others and now, Trivago got called out on it.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) took Trivago to court for showing misleading hotel prices. What did they do? Trivago high-lights the best deal, but often the lowest price is not the one highlighted, but one found in the list of “more deals” you have to click on to view.

In this example, the highlighted deal is more than 30% higher than the best price! The “best deal” is the best deal for Trivago, the one paying the highest commission! To make matters worse, Trivago is sometimes showing a discount percentage or a “strike through price” that isn’t for a comparable room, but a higher room category, misleading customers about their savings! “I saved 65% by booking the broom closet instead of the Presidential Suite” – no one ever said!

Trivago has now admitted to these practices – and has updated their website. Unfortunately, not to change the way they show results, but to state that deals are ranked by commissions paid by the booking site. While that probably resolve the legal issue, they are still facing a steep fine of up to AUD10 million for it – and it of course doesn’t change anything for consumers. 

So, what is one to do? I continue to use Trivago (my review), especially in Europe for their depth of partners and for their user interface. But when you have found a hotel you like, just look at the little box that says “more deals from $xx” – it will show the lowest available price. Click on it and you’ll get a list of all booking sites, the room categories and prices, so you can pick your favorite booking site that offers the best price – problem solved.

While the other meta-search sites hotelscombined and TripAdvisor also engage in some shenanigans and TripAdvisor has been called out on their fake reviews, it’s not as blatant as with Trivago. Check out my comparison of the three hotel meta-search sites to find the best for you!

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H/T: TravelDailyMedia

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