Booking Faces Nearly €500 Million Fine in Spain for Competition Violations

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Travel booking platform Booking.com is preparing to challenge a historic fine imposed by the Spanish authorities.

Booking Holdings announced on Thursday the company’s intention to challenge the draft decision of the Spanish competition authority, which proposes a staggering fine of $530 million, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

Having completed its investigation in 2022, Spain’s National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) has found Booking Holdings guilty of engaging in anti-competitive practices, paving the way for a substantial fine.

The reservation expressed disappointment with the CNMC’s draft decision, strongly disagreeing with its findings and indicating an intention to appeal if it becomes final. The Netherlands-based company, which dominates the global online hotel booking sector, operates as a subsidiary of the US Booking Holdings group.

In addition, Chief Financial Officer David Goulden characterised the preliminary decision in Spain as “unprecedented.”

The CEO of Booking Holdings, Glenn Foge, reiterated the company’s stance on appealing the fine if the draft decision becomes permanent. Meanwhile, Goulden added that the appeals process could take several years, necessitating changes to some of Booking.com’s business practices in Spain.

The fine imposed in Spain adds to the regulatory challenges facing Booking.com, including imminent action by the European Union under the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

As the largest online travel agency and accommodation provider in Spain and Europe, Booking.com’s importance in the travel industry remains paramount.

Booking Holdings also suffered a $276 million loss related to what the company described as the “Dutch pension fund issue.” In the case, an appeals court in The Hague confirmed Booking.com’s status as a travel agency, forcing the registration of employees in a pension fund across the Amsterdam-based travel industry.

According to a report by Booking Holdings, Booking’s fourth-quarter net income fell 82 per cent to $222 million, while revenue rose 18 per cent to $4.8 billion.

We are pleased to report a solid close to 2023, with fourth quarter room nights growing nine per cent year-over-year or 11 per cent when excluding business associated with Israel, which was significantly impacted by the war. For the full year, we reached a significant milestone with over 1 billion room nights booked on our platforms, and we achieved record levels of gross bookings, revenue, and operating income.

Glenn Fogel, Chief Executive Officer of Booking Holdings

Despite the setbacks encountered in the latter part of the year, Booking ended 2023 on a relatively positive note, with a 40 per cent year-over-year increase in net income to $4.3 billion on revenue of $21.4 billion, reflecting an increase of 25 per cent.

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