Spain to wonderful Reserving almost €500M for elbowing out smaller companies

The parent company of Amsterdam-based faces a record fine from Spain’s antitrust watchdog, as Europe steps up its efforts to crack down on tech giants and create breathing room for smaller companies.

Following a probe launched in 2022, Spain’s National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) has found Booking Holdings guilty of anti-competitive practices, the online travel giant said in a statement on Thursday

The alleged infringements include preventing local hotel groups from offering deals that are cheaper on their own sites than the price they offer on 

Booking faces a provisional penalty of €486mn, in what would be the largest fine the CNMC has ever handed out. 

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Booking has disputed the allegations, arguing that allowing higher prices on its platform than those found on other websites could hurt the consumer, people familiar with the matter told the Financial Times

“We could not disagree more with this draft decision and the arbitrarily large fines that they have proposed, which is completely disproportionate to the alleged conduct,” said  Glenn Fogel, the CEO of Booking Holdings.

Spanish regulators will finalise their decision over the coming months. If the fine sticks, Fogel said the company will appeal it. He added that the appeals process could take several years and that would have to alter some business practices in Spain.

The news comes just days after the EU announced it is set to fine Apple €500mn for allegedly elbowing out competitors to its music streaming business. 

Dominant tech companies operating in the EU, including Booking, are currently being forced to show how they are complying with landmark new rules aimed at ensuring fair competition in the bloc’s single market. 

Smaller firms and other tech businesses have long complained of being unfairly limited by these tech giant’s business practices. The Digital Markets Act, with which companies will need to comply come March 7, looks to level the playing field.

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