UK hotels accused of excluding VAT from headline prices

Some of the best known hotel groups operating in the UK have been accused of excluding VAT from the headline prices on their on-line booking sites.

The omission of the VAT element from the shown price has drawn accusations that the hotel chains are misleading their customers and breaching regulations, following an investigation by consumer watchdog and magazine publisher, Which?.

According to Which?, 11 of the 24 hotel chains used by its readers did not initially show the tax in their pricing, an omission of 20 percent on the price of a room. By not showing VAT in their pricing, the hotels are also reportedly breaching consumer protection regulations.

The 11 hotel chains that were allegedly guilty of the omission when Which? checked prices on websites last month were: Crowne Plaza, Doubletree by Hilton, Guoman, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Malmaison, Marriott, Mercure, Radisson Blu, Sofitel and Thistle. It took Hilton and Doubletree until stage 4 of a 5 stage booking process before they included the VAT in the price, while others did not include the tax until the final payment procedure.

Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, an organisation that represents major hotel chains in the UK, commented that many establishments were planning to change their practices in the light of the ASA judgment.

Which? said chains that did include VAT in the initial prices included Barcelo (now Puma), Britannia, Best Western, Days Inn, De Vere, Holiday Inn Express, Ibis, Jury’s Inn, Macdonald and Novotel.