NATIONAL

‘20 percent of Seoul users of foreign hotel booking sites were misled’: report

By Claire Lee
  • Published : Jul 10, 2018 - 16:34
  • Updated : Jul 10, 2018 - 16:42
Almost 20 percent of all Seoulites who used foreign hotel booking sites last year for overseas accommodation were misled, encountering hidden charges and deceptive price claims, according to a Seoul Metropolitan Government report Tuesday.

The report came to the conclusion after monitoring seven major booking sites, including Expedia, TripAdvisor, booking.com and hotels.com, among others, as well as surveying consumers in Seoul.

The city also found that it is sometimes cheaper to book rooms directly through hotel websites, rather than using such booking sites.
 
Travellers at South Korea`s Incheon International Airport (Yonhap)

According to the city government data, the proportion of Seoul consumers who have used such sites and experienced problems has significantly increased since 2015, from 12.3 percent to 19.3 percent last year.

Among those who encountered problems last year, the largest proportion of them, 39.6 percent, said they were unable to get a refund and they had not been informed that the reservation was a nonrefundable offer.

Some consumers said the transaction was made through their credit cards that had already been registered on the site, after one or two simple clicks, even before they had the time to read terms and conditions.

At the same time, 36.3 percent said they were scammed by false or misleading offers. Almost 26 percent said they were given a different deal from what they had signed off on when they arrived at the accommodation.

For example, a consumer only found out that breakfast was never included in the deal after he arrived at the hotel, although he chose an offer that included breakfast when making a reservation online.

The report also showed that most of such sites, except booking.com and trivago, have been deliberately promoting prices that do not include tax, and some of such prices were up to 44 percent lower than the actual price that consumers had to pay.

The city government also said that many Koreans may not be aware that in order to avoid the currency conversion charges -- usually worth about 5-10 percent of the entire price -- one should always choose to pay in US dollars or local currency of the location of the accommodation.

Many foreign hotel booking sites show prices in Korean won, and at least one of the sites do not offer an option for consumers to pay in US dollars or local currency, according to the report.

“We will keep monitoring the situation and find ways to better protect local consumers,” said Kim Chang-hyun, an official from the Seoul Metropolitan Government, in a statement.

“It’s harder to tackle online consumer scams when the sites are owned by foreign firms.”

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)