UK: Office of Fair Trading consults on amendments to proposed hotel online booking commitments

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

On Dec. 20, 2013, the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) opened a consultation on revised commitments proposed by Booking.com B.V. (Booking.com), Expedia Inc (Expedia) and InterContinental Hotels Group plc (IHG) designed to address competition concerns in relation to the online offering of room-only hotel accommodation bookings by online travel agents (OTAs).

A Statement of Objections issued by the OFT on 31 July 2012 alleged that Booking.com and Expedia each entered into separate agreements with IHG, which restricted each OTA's ability to discount the rates at which room-only hotel accommodation bookings are offered to consumers. The OFT announced in August 2013 that it was consulting on draft commitments proposed by the three businesses as a means of addressing the OFT's competition concerns, and invited comments from third parties such as other businesses and consumers.

As a result of the consultation and further developments, the OFT currently considers that the original commitments address its competition concerns, subject to the following amendments which the parties have offered:

  • Hotel discounting: the commitments clarify that hotels will be allowed to offer discounts in an equivalent manner to OTAs.
  • Geographic scope: the commitments will apply to bookings made by European Economic Area residents for rooms in UK hotels, rather than to bookings made by UK residents for rooms in EU hotels.
  • Duration: the commitments will apply for a period of two years, rather than three years.

The OFT is minded to accept the commitments as revised, and is inviting interested third parties to comment.

Source: OFT press release 86/13 of 20 December 2013

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