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German cartel office rules on booking.com's best-price clause

Germany's Federal Cartel Office has lashed out against a best-price clause in use at the bookings.com online hotel booking platform. Regulators said the practice ran afoul of the country's competition laws.

The German cartel office on Wednesday prohibited the German arm of booking.com to continue using best-price clauses in its contracts with hotel operators in the country.

This means the leader in online hotel bookings will no longer be allowed to prevent hotel operators from offering rooms at cheaper rates on other, rival platforms, the German Association of Hotel Operators confirmed in Berlin.

The association had caused the cartel office to launch a probe back in 2013 when it first complained about what it called dubious business practices at booking.com.

Distorting competition

The Federal cartel Office found best-price clauses contradicted the spirit of fair competition among booking portals and hotel operators, thereby affecting the interests of consumers.

Should booking.com choose to ignore the cartel office's decision, it could be in for a stiff fine - in the range of hundreds of millions of euros.

"We explicitly welcome the resolute intervention of the cartel office," the hotel operators' association said in a statement Wednesday.

Earlier, the cartel office had already declared the best-price clauses at booking.com's rival HRS null and void, with a probe into Expedia still ongoing.

Online hotel booking platforms have massively

gained in importance

of late. Booking.com is an Amsterdam-based subsidiary of the US Priceline Group.

Booking.com has offices in 60 nations and offers hotel rooms in more than 200 countries.

hg/nz (dpa, AFP)

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