Hotel booking sites targeted

Expedia and other sites targeted

MP says internet reservation websites’ trading restrictions prevent cheap room deals being offered

HOTEL booking sites such as expedia.com, hotels.com and bookings.com are being targeted over unfair trading restrictions that, an MP says, threaten to take away the independence of France’s hotels.

Socialist Razzy Hammadi, the president of the business practices watchdog CEPC, says some internet booking site practices leave hotels with no room to attract customers – and have in the past stopped them from getting passing trade.

He has lodged amendments to the consumer trade law that is going through parliament that would define hotels’ economic independence, ban pricing restrictions in contracts and also look at taxing booking sites.

Mr Hammadi said booking site contracts often specify that the hotel cannot offer a room at a cheaper rate than the booking site, despite having to pay a commission that averages 18% for each room. This is despite the room being automatically 18% cheaper for a customer who walks into the hotel lobby.

He said that hotels risked becoming subsidiary to the booking site and he wanted the sites to keep to their original purpose of providing a reference to hotels.

The battle dates back to 2011 when some hotels challenged expedia.com and others in the courts after the websites posted that hotels were full when they still had rooms empty. In fact, the website had sold its allocation of rooms but stated that the hotel was “full”.

Hotels who sign contracts with booking sites will give over a certain percentage of their rooms to be advertised and sold through the site – now, after losing the court fight, expedia.com has changed to say it has “no more rooms available on the site”.

Some hotels are fighting back and are offering extras to guests who do not come via a booking site, such as free breakfasts or visits to museums, but the hoteliers union UMIH has also taken the booking sites to the competitions watchdog Autorité de la Concurrence over some of their practices.

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