Russia fines Booking.com $ 17.5 million for “abuse” of market dominance
Popular travel site Booking.com was fined 1.3 billion rubles ($ 17.5 million) by the Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russia (FAS) on Thursday for bringing about its dominance in the country .
The move comes as Russia ramps up pressure on Western IT companies and comes months after officials fined Apple $ 12 million (around Rs 89 crore) for the same offense. Booking.com “has abused its dominant position in the Russian market for the provision of services by aggregators of information on accommodation facilities,” according to a statement from the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service of Russia.
The Amsterdam-based travel portal has been accused of imposing “the responsibility to provide and respect price parity” on hotels and hostels.
“For hotels, this meant that they could not price their services in other sales channels lower than on the aggregator Booking.com,” said the regulator.
According to the study, “Booking.com’s actions restrict competition in the market and also lead to damage to the interests of hotels.”
The regulator said it took up the matter at the request of a non-governmental organization (NGO) that promotes Russian entrepreneurship and received applause from President Vladimir Putin.
Booking.com has expressed its “disappointment” at the decision, which it plans to “challenge”.
“We have always contributed to the development of the tourism industry and firmly believe that our price parity practice is fair and enables Booking.com to maintain the travel ecosystem,” the company said in a statement released by Russian state news agency TASS.
“This is especially important now, at an unprecedented time for the tourism industry, which continues to have a huge impact on Booking.com, our partners and the industry as a whole.”
Apple was fined $ 12.1 million (about Rs 89 crore) by Russia in April for “abusing” its dominant position in the market by prioritizing its own programs.
Western tech companies are frequently fined for not complying with Russian regulations. Russia penalized Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp on Thursday for failing to keep Russian user data on national servers.
A number of websites, including LinkedIn, have been blocked in Russia for refusing to comply with authorities.