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€530 million fine $ in Booking in Spain | Inquiry in Greece | EUR 276 million $ fine and in the Netherlands!

BUSINESS HOTELS WORLD

-Facing a hefty fine of €530 million. $ is Booking Holdings by Spanish regulators for violations of competition principles in its commercial practices.
This fine comes after a fine of EUR 276 million. $ in the Netherlands, while there are questions about the investigation of the Competition Commission in Greece into Booking’s practices.

It is recalled that since 2022, the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels has appealed to the Competition Commission, which has since investigated Booking’s practices. So far, according to available information, almost two years later, some questionnaires have been sent to hotels regarding the terms of cooperation with Booking. At the same time, in European countries, competition authorities directly and effectively control the multinational and impose appropriate penalties.

Spain’s National Markets and Competition Commission has drawn up a temporary fine against Booking, the online travel company said on Thursday.

The regulator accused it of breaches of competition principles, such as preventing domestic hotel groups from offering prices that are cheaper on their own websites than the price they offer on Booking.com.

The company refuted allegations of misconduct, arguing that allowing higher prices on its website could harm the consumer, sources close to the company said.

The Spanish committee will finalise its decision in the coming months.

Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel said Spain’s National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) found the Booking.com violated competition law in that country. “We couldn’t disagree more with this draft decision and the arbitrarily large fines they have proposed, which is completely disproportionate to the alleged behavior,” Fogel told financial analysts during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call on Thursday.

Chief Financial Officer David Goulden described the preliminary decision in Spain as “unprecedented”.

Fogel said the company would appeal the fine if the draft decision is finalized. Goulden added that the appeals process could take several years and that the Booking.com would have to change some business practices in Spain.

Booking.com is the largest online travel agency and accommodation provider in Spain and Europe.

The fine in Spain adds to the European Union’s upcoming regulatory action against Booking.com under the Digital Markets Act.

“As we have previously disclosed, we plan to submit our notification for determination under the DMA soon,” Fogel said. “And we believe that the main concerns raised by the Spanish authority coincide with the DMA. We will continue to work closely with these regulatory bodies to maintain consistent rules.”

Decision against Booking.com in the Netherlands

Booking Holdings has also been fined $276 million after an appeals court in The Hague ruled that the Amsterdam-based Booking.com is indeed a travel agency and therefore its employees there must be enrolled in a pension fund, like all employees in the travel industry.

Goulden said the company is trying to figure out how this new insurance deduction requirement fits into the company’s existing pension fund for employees working in the Netherlands. He said he expects the company’s retirement costs to rise, but that they won’t have a significant impact on Booking’s finances.

The parent company did not include losses of $530 million and $276 million, totaling $1.016 billion, in its non-GAAP numbers or adjusted EBITDA for the fourth quarter and full year 2023.

On a GAAP basis, Booking’s fourth-quarter net profit fell 82% to $222 million. Revenue rose 18% to $4.8 billion.

For the full year 2023, Booking’s net revenue rose 40% year-over-year to $4.3 billion with revenue of $21.4 billion, a 25% increase.

Booking.com’s short-term bookings are on the rise

Fogel said the Booking.com’s short-term rentals — he calls them “alternative accommodations” — totaled 7.4 million — and “rivaled” Airbnb’s 7.7 million.

These short-term rental bookings accounted for about 33% of the Booking.com’s total room nights in 2023, up 3 percentage points year-on-year.

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