The great hotel rip-off: how much have YOU been over-charged?

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Travellers may be being ripped off by hundreds of pounds because of a hotel room price fixing scandal, it has been claimed.

Major hotel chains have been accused of setting up a 'rate parity' scheme to ensure that rooms cost the same on every travel website, says a damning report in The Daily Telegraph.

This means that agents are allegedly being forced to stick to minimum prices or face being blacklisted from selling rooms.

For example, the paper's investigations revealed that a room at the five-star May Fair Hotel (pictured) in central London costs £204 per night - whether booked through the hotel or any major website, according to the paper.

The Office of Fair Trading is investigating the sector after a whistle-blower exposed the alleged practice. There are now fears that the internet may be hindering holidaymakers' ability to seek out a bargain.

If prices are found to be being kept artificially high, it means that many of us have been paying over-the-odds for rooms.

If any firms are found guilty they can be fined up to 10 per cent of their turnover.

According to a dossier seen by the Daily Telegraph, major hotel chains Radisson, Thistle and Starwood are telling retailers they must keep their prices at set levels.

This makes it almost impossible to find a knock-down rate.

A spokesman for the OFT said: 'The OFT is continuing with its formal investigation into suspected breaches of competition law in the hotel online booking sector.

'The investigation remains at a relatively early stage. However, after a preliminary review of the evidence gathered to date, the OFT continues to consider this matter as an administrative priority and is pursuing the investigation further.

'The OFT though will not be in a position to conclude whether it considers the law has been infringed until it has progressed its investigation further, including obtaining and assessing additional evidence.'

Spokesmen for the hotel groups said they had followed the law but were co-operating with the investigations.

A spokesman for Thistle and Guoman hotels said they could not comment but added that their pricing policies 'are in line with UK and European competition law in the hotel online booking sector'.

A spokesman for Starwood added: 'Starwood Hotels and Resorts requires our properties adhere to all legislation and takes this matter seriously.

'Starwood has not been contacted by the OFT but is willing to assist with any information they require.'

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