Online holiday deals given helping hand from regulator

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has announced it’s accepted commitments from Booking.com, Expedia and InterContinental Hotels (IHG) to relax rate restrictions on hotel rooms.

The agreement "clears the way" for hotels and online travel agents (OTAs) to offer discounts on rooms, the OFT said.

The commitments mean that all OTAs and hotels that deal with these three businesses will be able to offer discounts off headline room-only rates so long as customers:
• sign up to the membership scheme of an OTA or hotel to be able to view specific discounts, and
• make one undiscounted booking with the OTA or hotel in question to be eligible for future discounts.

The move follows a probe by the UK regulator into competition concerns that Booking.com and Expedia both entered into agreement with IHG that restricted each OTA’s ability to discount room-only hotel bookings for customers.

The OFT says the agreement will allow more competition between OTAs and between OTAs and hotels. It’ll also ensure more players into the market and for current ones to offer attractive discounts, it added.

Ann Pope, senior director in the OFT's Services, Infrastructure and Public Markets Group, said:

The travel industry, fuelled by the internet, has seen significant changes in recent years, and we want to ensure those changes continue to work in consumers' interests.

That is why we are pleased to have secured this outcome which, by allowing OTAs and hotels to offer discounts, should increase competition and mean travellers across Europe can benefit from reductions on hotel accommodation throughout the UK.