Booking.com has been accused of being a ‘bully’ by the UK B&B Association.
The accusation came after the booking site agreed a settlement with French, Italian and Swedish authorities in co-ordination with the European Union that allows the site to avoid the prospect of open competition over hotel prices in Europe.
The agreement means hotel and B&B owners can be prevented by Booking.com from offering cheaper rates on their own websites, or face being ostracised from the site, the bed and breakfast accommodation body claimed.
Chief executive David Weston said: “The B&B Association challenges Booking.com to defend how it uses its dominant position in the market to bully small independent B&Bs and hotels, by preventing them offering their best prices on their own websites.
“We strongly believe that the Competition & Markets Authority should address this gross imbalance of power, returning some from this global giant back to the individual B&B and hotel owners.”
The settlement terms allow hotels to offer the same rates to other online travel agents and to guests who book over the phone but not through their own websites.
This allows Booking.com to lay claim that it always offers the cheapest online rates available, according to the B&B Association.
The association described the settlement as being “wrong, anti-competitive, and against the interests of consumers”.
Weston said: “Booking.com should not be allowed to prevent B&Bs and hotels from offering their lowest prices on their own websites.
“Further, Booking.com, Expedia and other OTAs should not be allowed to ‘buy’ top places on web searches by ‘bidding’ on the names of individual hotels and B&Bs without their permission for pay-per-click search advertising on Google.”
Darren Huston, chief executive of Booking.com, said: “Our business and teams are driven by one goal, which is to deliver an amazing, unrivaled experience to our global customers who use us to find and book accommodations in a simple, convenient and trustworthy way, both here in Europe and around the world.
“We welcome and encourage fair competition in the marketplace because competition drives innovation, efficiencies, and most importantly, greater value for consumers.
“We believe today’s decisions represent a continued, coordinated effort to promote competition in a way that supports innovation and encourages companies like ours to continue to invest in the capacity and technical solutions that ultimately result in more customers for our partners and more tourism across Europe and abroad.”