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Increased competition between online travel agencies

21. April 2017

Competition between online travel agencies (OTAs), which market i.a. Danish hotels, seems to be strengthened to some extent after changes to the so-called ‘wide parity clauses’ used by OTAs in their contracts with hotels.

Director General of the Competition and Consumer Authority Jakob Hald says:

"There are indications of somewhat higher price differences on hotel rooms, following The European Competition Authorities’ intervention against booking portals in early 2015. This suggests increasing competition between the portals."

"Unfortunately, only few hotels make use of the new opportunity to negotiate a lower fee with OTAs and thus contribute to increased competition between OTAs. Many hotels are not even aware that they can negotiate, so in the future, we will help raise awareness about this option."

"Based on the survey and our assessment of the situation on the Danish market, we have decided along with the other competition authorities to monitor the development of the online hotel booking sector. We will reassess the competitive situation in due course. This will allow the sector more time to make full use of the measures that have already been taken."

In the summer of 2015, European hotels were given the opportunity to differentiate their room prices between individual sales channels, including OTAs. The opportunity arose as a consequence of the actions taken by competition authorities, when the OTAs changed their parity clauses. Since then, competition between OTAs has slightly improved. This is the conclusion of the European competition authorities in a survey of the online hotel booking sector across ten European countries.

Among other things, the study shows that one in five hotels use the option of differentiating their room prices between OTAs. And about one third of the hotels differentiate based on room category and room availability. More than half of the hotels are aware of the new opportunities, but only a few use them.

France has introduced a special law against parity clauses. The survey shows that hotels in France have a better understanding of the opportunities, but competition does not seem to differ from the other countries in the survey.

In light of the results of the European survey, the European Commission and the directors general of all the EU’s national competition authorities have decided to keep the online hotel booking sector under review and to reassess the competitive situation in due course.

The ten countries in the survey are: Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. In total, questionnaires were sent to 16,000 hotels, of which 1,600 responded. In addition, an extensive amount of room price data has been obtained from one or more major metasearch websites and from the websites of major OTAs.

The EU study points in the same direction as the sample survey conducted by the Danish Competition and Consumer Authority in the summer of 2016. The sample showed that more hotels had different pricing across one or more portals.

For further information, contact the Competition and Consumer Authority’s Communications Manager Hanne Arentoft, tel. +45 41 71 50 98.

Read the Competition and Consumer Authority’s memorandum on the EU study (in Danish)

Read the EU study on hotel booking portals

See photo of the Competition and Consumer Authority’s Director General, Jakob Hald, in print quality