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Booking faces $530m fine in Spanish competition probe

BI Desk || BusinessInsider

Published: 01:01, 24 February 2024  
Booking faces $530m fine in Spanish competition probe

Photo: Collected

Travel website Booking.com said it faces a record fine in Spain ahead of a landmark EU content law coming into force next month.

Spain's antitrust watchdog CNMC launched a probe in 2022 into whether the online platform committed anti-competitive practices, reports BSS/AFP.

The CNMC could hit Booking.com with a $530 million fine, which the company said on Thursday would be the authority's largest ever.

"We are disappointed by the CNMC Draft Decision, and strongly disagree with its findings," Booking said in a statement. "We intend to appeal this unprecedented decision, if it becomes final."

The Netherlands-based company that dominates the world of online hotel reservations is a subsidiary of the US Booking Holdings group.

While disagreeing with the CNMC's draft decision, Booking raised concerns about the prospect of being hit with national-level fines as it will also have to comply with the European Union's milestone Digital Markets Act (DMA).

The rules, which come into force next month, cover companies at the European level, with violators facing harsh punishments.

The DMA "is the right forum to discuss and assess the main concerns raised by the CNMC, presenting an opportunity to agree on solutions that apply across Europe rather than country by country", Booking said.

The DMA seeks to increase competition with a series of do's and don'ts for online companies. The firms have until March 7 to comply.

Platforms that fall under the DMA provide a service to more than 45 million monthly active users in the EU and to more than 10,000 yearly active business users established in the bloc.

Digital companies with an annual turnover in the EU of at least 7.5 billion euros ($8.1 billion) or a market value of above 75 billion euros also face the new curbs.

The EU has already named six "gatekeepers" that will have to comply with the rules: Google parent Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft and TikTok owner ByteDance.

Separately, the European Commission, the EU's powerful antitrust regulator, last year blocked Booking's bid for eTraveli, a smaller online travel agent, citing competition concerns and fears any approval could lead to higher prices for consumers.