Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Online Travel

South Korean Antitrust Watchdog Fines Booking.com and Agoda

2 years ago

South Korea’s antitrust regulator said Tuesday it would slap two Booking Holdings brands fines of $1,750 (2.5 million won) for its flagship brand Booking.com — and a similar fine on sister brand Agoda — for not clearly telling customers that their search results are partly based on advertising, Yonhap News Agency reported.

CORRECTION: This article originally reported an inaccurate currency conversion of $1.75 million per fine.

The Korea Fair Trade Commission said the online travel booking brands had “deceived” customers by not clearly saying that they had listed certain businesses, such as hotels, at the top of their search results partly because those companies had paid fees for the privilege.

The regulator said the practice might lead some customers to think certain businesses were at the top of search restuls solely because of their services and facilities, Yonhap reported.

Booking.com placed a “thumbs-up” logo next to hotels that paid fees, but the regulator said that was inadequate. Agoda used phrases, such as “Agoda Growth Program,” next to listings for hotels that had paid for premium placement, but the regulator faulted that practice as being insufficiently clear.

UPDATE: A Booking.com spokesperson provided the following statement:

“While we have a different view of the decision taken by the KFTC, we accept the judgment. At Booking, we always strive to comply with local laws and regulations in every country we operate in and more often than not, voluntarily go beyond the minimum compliance requirements instituted in the local legal framework. We strongly believe in the importance of continually improving the consumer experience on our website and mobile apps to bring transparency, choice, and value to travelers.”

—A Booking.com spokesperson.

Over the last several years, many online travel companies have become the subject of investigations by various national competition authorities for advertising, contractural, and selling practices.

Online Travel

India Competition Watchdog Hits MakeMyTrip and Oyo With $47 Million in Sanctions

2 years ago

India’s competition watchdog has fined online hotel-booking company MakeMyTrip Group about $27 million (₹223.48 crore) and hotel chain Oyo about $20 million (₹168.88 crore) for anti-competitive behavior.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has been investigating the companies since 2019, after a hotel body alleged that MakeMyTrip gave biased preference to SoftBank-backed Oyo on its sites and mobile apps.

OYO and MakeMyTrip said they were reviewing the order. Both companies said they believed their business practices were fair and lawful.

Some backstory, first: In October 2015, MakeMyTrip blocked its main competitor in the budget category, Oyo, from displaying listings on its site and apps.

MakeMyTrip had boycotted Oyo to nurture its attempt at branded budget booking properties, GoStays, and because it didn’t like how Oyo was using deep discounting to woo travelers to book directly instead of via agencies.

But the record-breaking growth, fueled by record-breaking funding, appeared to prompt MakeMyTrip to change its mind about the fight.

Smaller Oyo competitor brands, such as Fab Hotels and Treebo, disappeared from MakeMyTrip’s sites and apps.

In 2019, a major hotel lobby, the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) alleged that there were deals between Oyo and MakeMyTrip that gave preferential treatment to Oyo and thus were restricting market access to rivals such as Fab Hotels and Treebo and some other independent hotel operators with franchises in these brands.

“The Commission is of the view that the commercial arrangement between OYO and MMT-Go which led to the delisting of FabHotels, Treebo and the independent hotels, which were availing the services of these franchisors, was anticompetitive,” the CCI said in its order, accusing MakeMyTrip Group of misrepresentation the information on its site as being comprehensive and fair.

It was alleged that MakeMyTrip Group charged exorbitant commission brokerage fees to be listed for smaller players while offering Oyo comparatively favorable terms.

The commission held that MakeMyTrip and its sister brand GoIbibo held 63 percent of the domestic hotel online market share in 2017, which was the last time a new entrant, HappyEasyGo, debuted in the market.

Parity provisions in contracts, combined with discounting by online travel brands, were another area that the commission critiqued.

MakeMyTrip Group has put into contracts with hotel suppliers requirements for price parity hotel partners, where hotels can’t sell their rooms at any other online travel agency or on their own direct booking channels at rates below MakeMyTrip Group’s. Yet the online travel company retains its right to flex rates up and down to drive demand, such as offering rates below the average room rate.

It is likely MakeMyTrip Group and Oyo will appeal the regulator’s decisions.

Among their many complaints, the companies said in recent statements the investigation is devoid of any useful economic analysis and several concepts have been wrongly applied. MakeMyTrip Group also said it cannot be considered dominant in the online booking market when one looks at the bigger picture.