Priceline Group’s Booking.com has offered to drop a best-price contract clauses with hotels to end French, Swedish and Italian antitrust probes, European Union regulators said.
Booking.com has proposed scrapping a parity requirement that forces hotels across Europe to offer it the same price as other online travel agents, preventing rivals from undercutting it with lower prices, the European Commission said in an e-mail. Hotels would not be able to undercut Booking.com on bookings they make directly with customers.
Regulators are asking customers and competitors to comment on the offer by 31 Janary. The EU said it’s “coordinating the national investigations” and isn’t running its own probe. Germany is also investigating Booking.com and Expedia over best-price clauses after banning another company from using them. The UK must re-examine a probe into Booking.com, Expedia and InterContinental Hotels Group after a court overturned a planned settlement.
“The commission considered how advanced the investigations were in these three countries as well as in Germany and the UK, Austria and Ireland and as a result decided to let them continue and conclude with these investigations,” Ricardo Cardoso, a spokesman for the EU antitrust regulator, told reporters in Brussels.
Booking.com said it hoped the commitments would “pave the way for an industry-wide solution across Europe” and were a good outcome for accommodation providers and consumers, according to an e-mailed statement.
The price clauses “may restrict competition between Booking.com and other online travel agents and hinder new booking platforms from entering the market,” the EU said in its statement.
French, Swedish and Italian authorities are continuing to examine other online websites’ parity clauses, the EU said.
Bloomberg News, edited by Hospitality Ireland