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European Commission publishes report on the online hotel booking sector

Date of issue: 06.04.2017

The European Commission has today published a report on the online hotel booking sector. The report was prepared by a working group within the network of the competition authorities in the European Union (ECN), in which the Bundeskartellamt had actively participated. The working group examined the effects of antitrust enforcement measures against so-called parity clauses (also known as best price clauses) employed by Online Travel Agents (OTAs).

Parity clauses oblige hotels to offer a price via an OTA that is at least as favourable as the price on their own website (‘narrow parity clauses’) or – in addition – as favourable as the price on all other sales channels (‘wide parity clauses’). The Bundeskartellamt holds that such parity clauses restrict competition between the different OTAs and between hotels. In recent years, the Bundeskartellamt, other European competition authorities and in some cases also the respective legislator have adopted measures against these clauses. While in some Member States all kinds of parity clauses were prohibited, only ‘wide parity clauses’ were prohibited in other Member States.

The report looks at both types of measures. The Bundeskartellamt considers the report as confirmation that the specific design of the antitrust enforcement measures has particularly to take into account the specific circumstances of the national markets on which the OTAs are active.

The full report is available on the website of the European Commission.