Games sponsor probed in hotel price-fix deal

 
Kasmira Jefford
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THE OFFICE of Fair Trading has accused InterContinental Hotels Group, the official hotel sponsor for the Olympic Games, and two of the biggest travel agents of anti-competitive practices that limited the discounts offered on hotel rooms.

The watchdog, which announced the provisional findings of its investigation launched in September 2010, said Booking.com and Expedia made separate arrangements with IHG, which allegedly restricted the discounts they could offer on room-only hotel accommodation.

It described the deals as “uncompetitive” in that they could squeeze out other travel agents trying to gain a share of the market by passing on discounts to consumers.

The findings imply that hundreds of Olympic-goers and other holidaymakers could be spending more for their hotel rooms than necessary, a spokesperson said.

IHG, which owns the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza brands, denied the charge and said it was cooperating fully with the OFT.

The deal between InterContinental and Booking.com is still in place, while Expedia’s alleged infringement occurred between October 2007 and September 2010, the OFT said. The parties have three months to respond.

“'We want people to benefit fully from being able to shop around online and get a better deal from discounters that are prepared to share their commission with customers,” said Clive Maxwell, OFT chief executive.