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Report: Orbitz steers Mac users to pricier hotels

(CBS News) When Orbitz, the online travel booking giant, learned that users of Apple products spend as much as 30 percent more than their Windows-using counterparts on hotels, the site began offering up pricier options first to those surfing from a Mac, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Orbitz executives insisted that the same room wasn't being shown at different prices to Mac users, and that customers always retain the option of searching by room price first, the Journal reports.

In its report, the Journal writes:

"Orbitz found Mac users on average spend $20 to $30 more a night on hotels than their PC counterparts, a significant margin given the site's average nightly hotel booking is around $100, chief scientist Wai Gen Yee said. Mac users are 40% more likely to book a four- or five-star hotel than PC users, Mr. Yee said, and when Mac and PC users book the same hotel, Mac users tend to stay in more expensive rooms."

The move by Orbitz is part of the growing trend of online retailers tailoring their offerings based on a wide variety of available user data; in this case, they targeted the hardware used by the shopper.

While this appears to be a legitimate business practice, Orbitz has in years past been hit with fines for employing deceptive practices.

In October, 2011, Orbitz was hit with a $60,000 fine for violating rules prohibiting "deceptive price advertising," by not displaying all the hidden fees in its airline ticket prices, CNET reports.

In 2009, a congressional investigation found that Orbitz and other online retailers had used "marketing companies (that) were found by the government to have "tricked" consumers into entering their e-mail addresses just before they completed purchases at Orbitz and the other retailers. A pop-up ad, which many consumers said appeared to be from the retailer, offered them cash back or a coupon if they keyed in their e-mail address. Those who provided information often had no idea that they were agreeing to join the programs because--you guessed it--the disclosure was buried in fine print."