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The OFT closed on 31 March 2014 and this website is no longer being updated. The OFT's work and responsibilities have passed to a number of different bodies. Read more.

Investigation into the hotel online booking sector

Case reference: CE/9320/10 
Case opened: September 2010
Final Decision: 31 January 2014

The OFT has accepted formal commitments from Booking.com B.V. and its ultimate parent company priceline.com Incorporated; Expedia, Inc; InterContinental Hotels Group plc and Hotel Inter-Continental London Limited, which will enable online travel agents and hotels to offer discounts on rates for room only hotel accommodation booking.

Having accepted the commitments, the OFT has ended its investigation and will not be proceeding to a decision on whether or not the Competition Act 1998 and/or the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union has been infringed.

 

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Summary of work - updated 31 January 2014

In September 2010, the OFT launched a formal investigation into suspected breaches of competition law in the hotel online booking sector, in particular in relation to specific vertical arrangements between hotels and online Travel Agents (OTAs).

On 31 July 2012, the OFT issued a Statement of Objections alleging that Booking.com B.V. (Booking.com), Expedia Inc (Expedia) and InterContinental Hotels Group plc (IHG) infringed UK and EU competition law in relation to the online offering of room only hotel accommodation bookings by OTAs. The Statement of Objections alleged that Booking.com and Expedia each entered into separate agreements with IHG which restricted each OTA's ability to discount the rate at which room only hotel accommodation bookings are offered to consumers.

For further details, see press release OFT issues Statement of Objections against Booking.com, Expedia and IHG (31 July 2012).

Parties under investigation are given a full opportunity to respond to a Statement of Objections issued to them before the OFT makes its decision as to whether competition law has in fact been infringed or closes the investigation. No assumption should be made at that stage that there has been an infringement of competition law.

The parties did not formally respond to the Statement of Objections, and instead proposed to address the OFT's concerns by offering formal commitments. On 9 August 2013, the OFT opened a consultation on these proposed commitments. On 20 December 2013, the OFT opened a consultation on revised commitments.

The OFT accepted the commitments, which address its competition concerns, on 31 January 2014.

The commitments will remain in force for two years. It should also be noted that, where the OFT has accepted binding commitments, it may for the purpose of addressing its current competition concerns, accept a variation of or substitution for the commitments.

For an explanation of what the commitments mean in practice for hotels, OTAs and consumers, please see FAQs:

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Related documents

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Case timetable - updated 31 January 2014 

First published: 16 October 2012

Milestone  Date
Investigation opened 10 September 2010
(actual)
Information gathering, including issuance of formal or informal information requests and parties' responses September 2010 - June 2012 (actual)
- OFT analysis and review of parties' responses to information requests
- Issue of further information requests
- Internal governance processes to decide investigation outcome
October 2010 - July 2012 (actual)
Investigation outcome (issue of Statement of Objections; case closure - see Procedural Guidance) Statement of Objections issued on 31 July 2012 (actual)
Consultation opened on commitments proposed by Booking.com, Expedia and IHG 9 August 2013 (actual)
Consultation period 9 August - 13 September 2013 (actual)
Consultation opened on revised commitments proposed by Booking.com, Expedia and IHG and European Commission officially informed of the OFT's intention to accept revised commitments. 20 December 2013 (actual)
Consultation period on revised commitments 20 December 2013 - 17 January 2014 (actual)
Final decision on commitments and case closed  31 January 2014




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Change Log

The following changes have been made to the original estimates in the administrative timetable since it was first published in October 2012. See original timetable (pdf 42kb), and timetables from March 2013 (pdf 65kb), August 2013 (pdf 47kb) and December 2013 (pdf 49kb).

Date of change Reason for change Nature of change(s) made to timetable
March 2013 Additional time required for procedural steps Estimated timing of future phases/milestones put back by four months
August 2013 OFT opened consultation on commitments proposed by Booking.com, Expedia and IHG Estimated timing of future phases/milestones amended to reflect offering of commitments by parties
December 2013 OFT opened consultation on revised commitments proposed by Booking.com, Expedia and IHG Estimated timing of future phases/milestones amended to reflect offering of revised commitments by parties
January 2014 Final decision on commitments and case closed Amendments to reflect actual timing


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Contacts and media enquiries

Senior responsible officer

Ann Pope (020 7211 8786, ann.pope@oft.gsi.gov.uk)

Project director

Gaucho Rasmussen (020 7211 8497, gaucho.rasmussen@oft.gsi.gov.uk)

Team leader

Fran Mendia-Lara (020 7211 8159 francisca.mendia-lara@oft.gsi.gov.uk)

Media enquiries

Any media enquiries should be directed to a member of our Press Office




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