Local court rules unfair competition on Booking.com, sets conditions to lift restrictions

Published 18.10.2019 12:36
Updated 18.10.2019 21:51
emIHA Photo/em
IHA Photo

A Turkish court ruled Friday that fare aggregator Booking.com had engaged in widespread unfair competitive practices.

Booking.com's activities in Turkey have been restricted in Turkey as a "precautionary measure" since March 2017, following a lawsuit by the Turkish Travel Agencies Association (TÜRSAB).

During the hearing, lawyers for TÜRSAB said their objections were ongoing and asked that the case be accepted, while lawyers for Booking.com requested the dismissal of the action.

The ban on the world's largest online reservation portal would be lifted once ads constituting unfair competition are removed and a deposit payment of TL 500,000 is submitted, the ruling said.

The court added that the defendant was engaged in travel agency activity. It said the defendant did not pay taxes and did not obtain the necessary permits to open an office. The court noted that the defendant operated by opening "digital and fixed office," and in doing so, they avoided administrative-legal controls and did not comply with the business conditions.

The court ruled that the defendants contained provisions causing unfair competition in their contracts with hotels regarding "Wide MFN," "Price and Quota Parity," "Minimum Allocation" and "Best Price Guarantee." Also, the court detected that the Booking also featured advertisements on their website booking.com that caused unfair competition.

The court ruled on the elimination of all the provisions of "Wide MFN," "Price and Quota Parity," "Minimum Allocation" and "Best Price Guarantee" that were cited in contracts that the defendant signed with hotels, as well as on the removal of advertisements that caused unfair competition on Booking.com and all the online applications.

The court decided that a sample of the decision should be sent to the Culture and Tourism Ministry to apply administrative sanctions in accordance with the law No. 168 on Travel Agencies and Association of Travel Agencies since the defendants were engaged in "travel agency" activities.

The current restrictions make it impossible to make a reservation within Turkey through Booking.com; however, the website is still available for international reservations.

The ban hurt numerous small hotels across Turkey; particularly in Anatolia, which relied solely on Booking.com rather than other tour operators and travel agencies. As a result, the Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TÜROFED), the Turkey Hoteliers Association (TÜROB) and the Turkish Small Hotels Association requested the ban on the company be lifted.

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