A558 - Italian Competition Authority: investigation opened for alleged abuse of dominant position by Booking


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According to the Authority, Booking is implementing a strategy aimed at reducing the freedom of Italian hotels in setting prices for the online sales channels. This strategy is likely to result in exclusionary effects in the market for online hotel intermediation and booking services.

The Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) has opened an investigation concerning (Italia) S.r.l., B.V. e International B.V. to ascertain an alleged abuse of dominant position in the market for online intermediation and booking services, in breach of Art. 102 TFEU.

More specifically, Booking is allegedly granting to the hotels that join the Preferred Partner Programme (and its extension Preferred Plus) advantages in terms of visibility of their own offerings in the search results, in exchange for higher commission fees and a commitment to offer “competitive” prices on, namely prices not higher than those applied by hotels on their own websites or platforms of other online travel agencies (so-called OTAs). Meanwhile, when its capillary and sophisticated monitoring activity finds that a hotel partner offers better prices on other online channels, Booking reserves the right to apply, without the consent of its hotel partners, a discount (the so-called Booking Sponsored Benefit) in order to align prices on its platform to the best online offer available.

Overall, this strategy is likely to hinder the unfolding of an effective competition in the (at least) national market for the online hotel intermediation and booking services, to the detriment of other OTAs, with adverse effects on hotels and ultimately consumers, in terms of higher prices and less choice for intermediation and booking services.

Yesterday, AGCM’s officials carried out inspections at the premises of (Italia) S.r.l., aided by the Special Antitrust Unit of the Italian Financial Police (Guardia di Finanza).

Rome, 22 march 2024