In the guide
This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales
If you offer accommodation as part of a business you must comply with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs).
You must make sure your price information is not misleading. A price list should be prominently displayed with full information indicating the range of prices inclusive of compulsory service charges and VAT (where applicable). If you charge more than your advertised price you could be guilty of giving a misleading price indication.
The price information that is given for accommodation and other services must not be misleading and should be displayed so that it is available before a consumer decides to make a booking. Price information can be given in many forms - for example, verbally, on the internet, on an advert, in a brochure, on an invoice, or in a statement of terms. Any 'misleading action' (such as showing a lower price than that charged) or 'misleading omission' (such as not including a tax or service charge) could be an offence. You may commit an offence if a consumer is given incorrect price information for your accommodation and/or services that they rely on as being correct when deciding to make a booking.
A price list displayed in the reception area or at the entrance to your accommodation is a common method for displaying room rates. The price list could also be displayed in brochures, leaflets and on websites.
It is suggested that the price list you display should include:
You should indicate whether the prices listed are the lowest price available (stating 'from', for example), representative of a range of prices (stating 'typical price', for example) or are the highest and lowest prices for a type of accommodation (stating 'from' and 'to', for example).
You should also indicate whether the prices displayed are for a particular period - for example, 'minimum three night stay' - and whether there are any surcharges for single person occupancy of double rooms etc. If a price is subject to any special conditions - for example, where the room has to be booked a certain period in advance, or where you offer a discount in return for making a booking non-cancellable - this must also be made clear.
Consumers should be informed of the prices for rooms and services that are not listed before they decide to stay together with any negotiated discounts, special rates or surcharges that may apply.
All prices should include any compulsory service charges and it should be stated in the price list that they are included. You must make it clear if meals are included in the price - for example, 'single bedroom £30 per night, including breakfast'.
The price you display must include VAT. If you do a significant amount of trade with VAT-registered business customers, you may wish to provide details of VAT-exclusive prices too, but these should never be more prominent than the VAT-inclusive prices. On a website, you can provide a facility (a button, for example) to allow users to switch between VAT-inclusive and VAT-exclusive prices, so long as the inclusive prices are the ones that appear by default.
The price list must be in a prominent position and be easy to read.
If you advertise your prices to the public (for example, on a sign outside your premises, in a brochure or on a website) you should be careful to include non-optional extra charges in your advertised prices and stick to them when you present your bills to your customers. If you charge more than your advertised price you could be guilty of giving a 'misleading price indication'. This is a criminal offence. It could also be a breach of contract.
If there is a chance that your prices could vary during the lifetime of the advertisement you should make this clear - for example, different prices for high and low seasons.
It is legal to charge consumers a surcharge for using a credit or debit card to pay the bill. However, the charge must not be more than it costs you to process the payment and you must inform consumers of the charge before they proceed with the booking. The requirements regarding surcharges are controlled by the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012 (see 'Payment surcharges' for more information).
If you fail to comply with these requirements you could be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which could result in prosecution. The maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.
For more information on the CPRs generally, including an explanation of misleading actions and omissions, please see 'Consumer protection from unfair trading'.
Last reviewed / updated: December 2016
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
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