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EC Opens Antitrust Probe into EU Hotels Online Pricing

Hotel accommodation, consumer electronics and video games sectors have come under the scrutiny of the European Commission, which is assessing whether certain online sales practices are preventing consumers from enjoying cross-border choice and competitive prices.

The three probes, which include companies like Thomas Cook, Philips, Pioneer, Koch Media and Valve Corporation, opened last week with the aim to tackle alleged retail price restrictions, discrimination on the basis of location and geo-blocking. Preliminary results of the Commission’s competition sector inquiry on e-commerce reveal that the use of these restrictions is widespread throughout the EU.

“E-commerce should give consumers a wider choice of goods and services, as well as the opportunity to make purchases across borders. The three investigations we have opened today focus on practices where we suspect companies are trying to deny these benefits for consumers,” Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition, said.

“The cases concern the consumer electronics, video games and hotel accommodation sectors. More specifically, we are looking into whether these companies are breaking EU competition rules by unfairly restricting retail prices or by excluding customers from certain offers because of their nationality or location.”

EU Hotels Under Scrutiny

The last of the three cases into the accommodation sector comes after a series of complaints from customers and looks into agreements regarding hotel accommodation between the largest European tour operators  – Kuoni, REWE, Thomas Cook, TUI – and hotels such as Melia.

The Commission underlines that though it “welcomes hotels developing and introducing innovative pricing mechanisms to maximise room usage”, it will not tolerate “change of rates and hotel room availability depending on customers’ location as this – if found – may be a breach of EU competition rules by preventing consumers from booking hotel accommodation at better conditions offered by tour operators in other Member States simply because of the consumer’s nationality or place of residence”.

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