The German Hotel Association (IHA) supports a class action lawsuit filed by approximately 2,000 hotel owners in the Berlin District Court against Booking.com.
The association explains its commitment to help hoteliers defend their rights in court. Since 2004, Booking.com has been applying best price regulations, according to which the booking portal prohibits affiliated hotels from offering rooms at lower prices through any other sales channel. With this provision, Booking.com protected its business model from any competition in antitrust infringement, which ultimately allowed the company to charge hoteliers draconian booking fees of up to 50% of the room rate.
Negotiations for a settlement failed
German hoteliers believe that the size of the Booking.com commission was overstated, and they suffered because of the provisions on better prices. The German Hotel Association currently supports the dissatisfaction of 2,000 hotels that have joined its daBeisein initiative to enforce their claim for compensation in court.
“After several months of settlement negotiations that were really constructive, Booking.com abruptly left the negotiating table at the end of October last year and suddenly sued the 66 hotels involved in the initiative in a Dutch court in Amsterdam for” improper execution of their obligations “. As a result, the other 2,000 hotels had no choice but to file a class action lawsuit in the Berlin District Court,” explains Otto Lindner, head of IHA.
In 2013, the Federal Cartel Office initiated an antitrust lawsuit against Booking.com following a complaint to the German Hotel Association over the use of best price provisions in violation of antitrust law. After the Federal Cartel Agency and the Düsseldorf High Regional Court left no doubt in the parallel HRS case that the best price provisions were incompatible with German and European antitrust law, Booking.com eventually in 2015 removed the best price provisions from their conditions in Germany.
The portal has benefited more than many years
“At that time, Booking.com had been applying best price provisions for more than 10 years, thus significantly restricting competition between booking portals and direct hotel sales. This not only restricted competition between booking portals, but also significantly hindered direct sales of hotels, for example through their own websites. Due to the best price provisions, Booking.com has not only maintained booking fees at excessive levels since 2004, but has also increased them over time, ”said Marcus Luti, CEO of the German Hotel Association. “We now want to ensure that hotels have the right to compensation in accordance with the principles of German and European antitrust law against Booking in the competent courts of Berlin and Amsterdam.”
Because litigation involves exorbitant costs and risks for many hotels, the hotel association has taken and consolidated the claims into a class action lawsuit so that hotels can resolve litigation without costs or financial risks.
Statement from Booking.com
Booking.com, of course, sees the facts in a completely different light. The position of the booking portal is rather vague: “We strongly disagree with the accusations of the IHA, and although we were ready for an open and constructive dialogue, the IHA insisted on inappropriate and unfounded accusations, showing no willingness to adequately discuss the actual or legal causes of the conflict.
The parity provisions challenged by the IHA not only ensure that we can provide all the values and services we provide to our partners. They are also known to all our partners who have chosen accommodation on Booking.com. As a result, we refer customers from all over the world to our partners at a much lower price than they would be to advertise their own hotels to create a similar sales channel.
Especially in these unprecedented times, which continue to have a huge impact on the entire tourism industry, including Booking.com and our hosting partners, we must all remain focused and more committed than ever to working together to rebuild our industry. We are all interested in avoiding unnecessary and costly litigation and focusing our efforts on rebuilding the tourism industry.”