Slaughter and May advised the Booking Holdings group on the UK CMA’s consumer protection investigation into the online hotel booking industry.
The consumer investigation was a high-profile investigation for the CMA, as it led the way in Europe by being the first authority to agree a set of detailed rules governing the presentation of information on accommodation search and booking sites under EU consumer protection legislation. The CMA launched its investigation in June 2017, and the investigation was resolved by way of voluntary commitments in February 2019. The Booking Holdings group brands co-operated with the CMA investigation and, although there was no finding of infringement, Booking.com and Agoda voluntarily agreed to make changes to their website (including explaining how hotels are ranked in the search results, ensuring the impression given as to a hotel’s availability or popularity is not misleading and clarifying the basis on which discounts are offered). The matter involved significant intermediation by Slaughter and May between Booking.com and the CMA to develop workable and practical solutions.
Booking.com subsequently proceeded to roll these changes out on its website across the EU, with voluntary commitments agreed with the EU’s Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Network in December 2019.
Maria Barros, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer at Booking.com, said of Slaughter and May’s role in relation to the consumer protection investigations: “Slaughter and May did an excellent job guiding us throughout the CMA and subsequent CPC Network process. They were instrumental in helping us reach practical solutions that worked for the business and the regulators.”