(Adds Booking.com comment)
By Jamie Freed
SYDNEY, Sept 2 Australia's competition watchdog
on Friday said online booking agencies Expedia Inc and
Priceline Group Inc's Booking.com had agreed to allow
Australian hoteliers to offer lower rates for direct bookings by
telephone and walk-ins but not through their own websites.
The deal, following an investigation, comes after Germany's
antitrust regulator ordered Booking.com to scrap the practice of
forbidding hotels to offer rooms at lower prices on their own
websites. Similar changes have been made in Italy, France and
"They will now be able to offer lower rates through
telephone bookings and walk-ins, offer special rates and deals
to customer loyalty groups, in addition to offering deals via
Expedia and Booking.com," Australian Competition and Consumer
Commission (ACCC) Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.
In a statement, Expedia said the changes did not apply to
bookings marketed or published online.
Expedia and Priceline dominate online hotel bookings
globally and in Australia, where Wotif had once been a strong
independent player before being bought by Expedia for A$703
million ($530.77 million) in 2014.
Expedia and Priceline raised their commission rates to 15
percent from 12 percent after the Wotif takeover. Hotels have
been unable to offer lower rates on their websites and by
telephone and for walk-ins due to contractual clauses even
though they did not need to pay the commission to online travel
agencies for direct bookings.
The Accommodation Association of Australia (AAA) has lobbied
for those contractual clauses to be removed. AAA Chairman
Richard Munro on Friday said his group had not been consulted
before the deal between the online travel agents and ACCC was
"It is a long way off what we wanted," Munro told Reuters,
referring to the inability to offer lower prices online, which
is the most popular booking method.
"It is only a very lukewarm way to where we need to be and
consumers in this country aren't getting the best deal."
Global hotel chains like Hilton Worldwide Holdings
and Accor SA have focused on expanding their loyalty
programme offerings and offering discounts and perks like free
internet access and special meal deals to members to encourage
customers to make direct bookings.
Booking.com said the deal with the Australian regulator
meant hotels would still offer great rates and availability to
Booking.com in return for the extensive volume of business they
generated through the online travel agent.
($1 = 1.3245 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Stephen Coates and