Spanish competition regulator opens investigation into whether Booking.com economic practices ‘exploit’ hotels
Spain’s competition regulator has opened an investigation into Dutch travel bookings giant Booking.com following complaints by the Spanish Association of Hotel Managers and the Regional Hotel Association of Madrid.
The National Commission on Markets and Competition (CNMC) said on Monday it was looking into whether practices by Booking.com constitute an abuse of its dominant market position.
The company may have imposed unfair trading conditions on hotels located in Spain and used commercial profiles with exclusionary effects on other online travel agencies and online sales channels, the CNMC said.
It said it would also look into whether Booking.com’s conduct exploited the economic dependency on its platform of hotels in Spain, which it said would amount to a distortion of free competition.
“After reviewing the complaints received and information gathered under the preliminary investigation, the Competition Directorate of the CNMC considers that there are grounds to support the possibility that Booking.com B.V. may have breached articles 2 and 3 of the SCA [Spanish Competition Act] and article 102 of the TFEU [Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union],” the agency said in a statement.
Booking.com said it would work with the CNMC on its probe and said it had a “collaborative” relationship with hotels.
“We continue to work tirelessly to secure and deliver much needed demand for our accommodation partners, helping them fill their rooms every day,” the company said.
The CNMC has up to 18 months to reach a decision on whether a violation of trade rules took place.
The market dominance of Booking.com makes it likely to be designated as a “gatekeeper” under the Digital Markets Act (DMA), sweeping rules designed to impose competition controls on the largest tech companies that are to come into effect next May.
The DMA imposes stricter controls on gatekeepers in order to allow a more immediate response to abuses, while current laws require a lengthy initial investigation, with any remedies potentially taking years to materialise.