Marriott Looks To Delay Antitrust Trial With Emergency Motion

On Monday, October 18, Marriott International sought to delay an antitrust trial set to start October 25 over claims that the top US hotels rigged online search advertising auctions, reported Bloomberg Law. The Motion was asking a federal judge in Texas for more time to challenge a magistrate’s “radical break from precedent.”

Marriott’s hotel chain filed an emergency motion urging Judge Robert W. Schroeder III to review a ruling by Magistrate Judge Caroline Craven, claiming the October 15 decision is the first ever to apply the per se antitrust framework in the context of online advertising auctions. The ruling remains under court seal.

The lawsuit, which has been filed by class-action law firm Hagens Berman, contests that Choice Hotels International, Hilton, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott International and Wyndham Worldwide took part in an anticompetitive agreement to reduce or eliminate online branded keyword search advertising against each other. Hagens Berman maintains that as a result of this, consumers were deprived of the “free flow of competitive information,” raising the price of hotel rooms as well as the cost of finding rooms.

The lawsuit states that each hotel defendant entered into an agreement to refrain from using specific online advertising methods to compete for consumers. The agreement prevented competing hotel entities from bidding for online advertising that used their competitors’ brand names. In the example included in a release from Hagens Berman, Hilton Hotels declined to bid on keywords that would prompt its hotels to appear in searches for Hyatt-branded properties, in turn making it more difficult for consumers to obtain information about competing hotels. Because of this, Hagens Berman maintains that the defendants made it more difficult to compare and contrast information such as price and quality when booking hotel stays.

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