Following an inquiry into vertical aspects of online platforms and distribution channels, the Czech Office for the Protection of Economic Competition recently found that online travel agency (OTA) Booking.com had included most-favoured-nation (MFN) clauses in its agreements with hotels in the Czech Republic between 1 May 2009 and 30 June 2015. According to the Office, these clauses distorted competition on the Czech online booking platform market for hotels and possibly also other EU countries and therefore constituted a breach of Czech competition law. The Office imposed a fine of CZK 8.3 million.
Booking.com required that hotels offer the platform the same or better conditions as regards the price of accommodation, availability of rooms and other terms than those available on their own website or on any other online or offline distribution channel used by them. The Office concluded that these MFN clauses:
- restricted competition among existing online booking platforms, as they dissuaded them from offering lower prices or room availability; and
- prevented new booking platforms from entering the market.
A similar conclusion was reached by the National Competition Authorities in other EU Member States. For further information regarding earlier developments in Denmark, Germany, France, Sweden, and Italy see: https://antitrust-alliance.org/the-danish-competition-and-consumer-authority-terminates-investigation-of-hotel-booking-portals-price-clauses-mfn-clauses/