An investigation by consumer group Which? has revealed that holidaymakers often pay too much for hotel rooms - but there's a way to get around it.
It's common for large booking sites like Hotels.com, Hotel Trivago and Booking.com to claim that their websites are the best and cheapest way to book a hotel room for your getaway.
However, new research from Which? has revealed that customers are paying up to 12 per cent too much for their hotel rooms by booking through these sites - thanks to something called "rate parity clauses".
What are rate parity clauses?
Rate parity clauses are clauses written into contracts between online travel agents (OTAs) and hotels, which stipulate that hotels can't advertise lower rates on their own websites - giving the OTAs the best deals.
This is considered anti-competitive in several other countries like Austria and Italy, where the practice is illegal.
OTAs also typically charge a commission of around 15 to 25 per cent for every hotel room booked on their site. They reason that the clauses and commission charges are fair because the hotels on their sites are getting free visibility.
However, smaller hotels and bed and breakfasts can't afford the commission, so they have to raise their prices - and, because of the clauses, price increases will apply to all platform, including the hotel's own website.
What this means is that you'll get an inflated price for a room, whether you book with a third-party website like Booking.com or on the hotel's website.
How to get around rate parity clauses
However, there is a way around this. Rate parity clauses apply to the prices listed on the hotel website - but not on the phone, in person or over email.
By contacting businesses directly, researchers at Which? found that in most cases they could negotiate a lower price than the one listed on the website, or at least get some perks - like free breakfast - thrown in for free.
It's advisable to calculate 15 to 20 per cent of the rate listed on the website before calling, as an indicator of how much you might be able to negotiate the price down.
You should also have the online rate to quote, in order to see whether the hotel can better the price.