Expedia and Booking.com: Agent or Distributor?

Ioannis Kokkoris, Jan 24, 2013

CPI Europe Column edited by Anna Tzanaki (Competition Policy International) presents:

Expedia and Booking.com: Agent or Distributor? by Ioannis Kokkoris* (University of Reading)

Introduction by Europe Column editor Anna Tzanaki

In our first 2013 edition of the CPI Europe Column, Ioannis Kokkoris (University of Reading) makes some interesting remarks on the OFT’s antitrust investigation against Expedia, Booking.com and InterContinental Hotels in the UK. Following the complaint of a small online travel agent in 2010, the OFT alleged in its statement of objections that the three companies has conspired to fix the prices in the online hotel bookings industry. In fact, their conduct was deemed to limit price competition and increase barriers to entry or expansion by restricting online travel agents’ ability to discount prices for hotel rooms only. In addition, the OFT considered that the MFN clauses leading to these competition restrictive practices are per se anti-competitive. Most importantly, what lies at the heart of this case is whether the agreements between Expedia or Booking.com and InterContinental Hotels are of a genuine agency nature – where in general the principal alone bears any commercial and financial risk – and thus may be exempted from the application of Article 101(1) TFEU. In this regard, the outcome of the case will depend on the treatment of Expedia and Booking.com either as an agent or as a distributor. While Expedia

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