Competition watchdog initiates disciplinary proceedings against Booking.com for possible anti-competitive practices

The Spanish competition watchdog, Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia (CNMC) has initiated disciplinary proceedings against Booking.com BV for restrictive competition practices prohibited in articles 2 and 3 of Law 15/2007, of July 3, on the Defence of Competition (LDC) and in article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) (S/0005/21).

On the one hand, the CNMC is investigating a series of practices that could involve an abuse of Booking.com’s dominant position with respect to the intermediation services offered by various online travel agencies to hotels. These types of agencies are known as OTAs, (online travel agencies).

In particular, these practices would consist of (i) the possible imposition of inequitable conditions on hotels located in Spain, and (ii) the implementation of commercial policies that could have had exclusionary effects on other online travel agencies, as well as on other online sales channels.

On the other hand, the conducts investigated would also include practices that would exploit the situation of economic dependence that the hotels located in Spain would have with respect to Booking.com. This fact would constitute an act of unfair competition that could distort free competition affecting the public interest.

This file has its origin in two complaints received at the CNMC by the Spanish Association of Hotel Managers and the Hotel Business Association of Madrid.

In view of these complaints and the information collected in the framework of the reserved information phase, the CNMC Competition Directorate considers that there are reasonable indications of the commission, by Booking.com BV, of possible infringements of the Articles 2 and 3 of the LDC, as well as 102 of the TFEU.

The initiation of this file does not prejudge the final result of the investigation. A maximum period of 18 months is now opened for the investigation of the file and for its resolution by the CNMC.