US company Booking.com was slapped on Tuesday with a decision to loosen its disputed pricing and availability contracts with hotels in three European countries after EU competition authorities examined complaints that the online agent was curbing competition.
Europe’s largest online-hotel booking platform, which was until now obliging hotels to offer the same or lower room prices exclusively to Booking.com, has settled, presenting antitrust regulators in France, Sweden and Italy, a set of concessions which now allow hotels to offer lower room prices on other online booking websites, the freedom to allot fewer rooms to Booking.com, as well as the option to offer cheaper rooms directly to consumers via offline channels.
The five-year agreement, which is effective as of July 1 and includes possible noncompliance penalties of up to 5 percent of the company’s revenue, applies only to France, Italy and Spain, but regulators hope it will soon be adopted in other European countries, as well as to other online competitors.
Tuesday’s decision is the latest in European antitrust regulators’ efforts to reign in Internet companies abusing their powerful online presence including HRS, Google Inc and Expedia.
Hotels in Europe reward online agents with commission fees ranging from 10 percent to 30 percent on rooms booked via their sites.