German Competition Authority (FCO) Sends Statement of Objections to Booking.com
On 2 April 2015, the German Competition Authority (FCO) sent a statement of objections (SO) to Booking.com Deutschland GmbH in relation to its use of “best price” clauses in contracts with hotels in Germany. The FCO takes the view that, following the decision of the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court confirming the FCO’s decision in proceedings against HRS, Booking.com should cease to use “best price clauses” (i.e., clauses that require hotels to offer hotel booking platforms their best online conditions regarding prices, room capacity and booking and cancellation). The FCO takes the view that such clauses restrict competition between hotel booking platforms, making entry by new platforms more difficult.
The FCO has said that it intends to prohibit Booking.com’s “best price” clauses to establish homogeneous competitive conditions between Booking.com and HSR. Booking.com is currently engaged in settlement discussions with competition authorities in France, Italy and Sweden (in parallel with the German proceedings).
The various hotel booking cases and the upcoming EU e-commerce sector inquiry reflect a growing focus on cross-channel competition online that warrants companies carefully considering restrictions that they impose.