InterContinental Hotels Group Plc (IHG), Expedia Inc. (EXPE) and a unit of Priceline.com Inc. (PCLN) proposed commitments in a bid to allay antitrust concerns by U.K. regulators over deals that may have limited online discounts for hotel-room sales.
The Office of Fair Trading said it started a consultation on proposals by the companies to address concerns it raised last year. The antitrust authority said at the time that InterContinental, the world’s largest provider of rooms, may have made deals with Priceline’s Booking.com and Expedia that restricted the ability of the two online-booking companies to offer lower prices when rooms were sold separately from flights or car rentals.
“The OFT is consulting on whether these commitments offer an immediate and effective means of injecting some meaningful price competition into the online offering of room only hotel accommodation bookings where, in our provisional view, none may exist,” Ann Pope, senior director in the OFT’s services, infrastructure and public markets group, said in the statement. “Under the proposed commitments,” online travel agents “would be able to offer discounts off hotel room bookings to qualifying consumers.”
The agreements may have prevented more online sales of hotel rooms, the OFT said last year. Sales of hotel rooms in the U.K. generated around 10.1 billion pounds ($15.7 billion) in revenue in 2010, the OFT has said. About 8 percent of those sales, or 849 million pounds, were booked using online travel agents, it said, citing figures from consumer-research company Euromonitor International.
InterContinental, the owner of the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotels brands, said in a statement that the commitments are designed to bring an end to the investigation without a penalty or finding of wrongdoing from the regulator. It said it worked closely with the OFT to agree on the commitments.
The OFT said it’s seeking comments from interested groups until Sept. 13 before it decides whether to accept the commitments.
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