Chains, OTAs win anti-trust battle

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc and Expedia Inc, are among several accommodation chains and online travel agencies that have won dismissal of an antitrust lawsuit after US district judge Jane J Boyle found plaintiffs hadn’t proved the companies conspired to fix room prices.
The lawsuit, brought by consumers who claimed they paid inflated prices for their rooms, failed to “plausibly suggest that the defendants entered into an industry-wide conspiracy”.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit accused accommodation providers and OTAs of entering agreements to prevent hotels from selling rooms for less than the participating OTAs charged, causing consumers to pay “artificially inflated prices”.

“The defendants’ ‘best price’ or ‘best rate’ guarantees are nothing more than a cover for their conspiracy to fix prices,” according to the lawsuit.

The judge will permit the consumers to re-file the complaint within 30 days if the revision would remedy the shortcomings in the one she threw out.

She said, the agreements between each hotel chain and each online operator could be explained by “rational business interests” rather than anti-competitive behaviour.

Ms Boyle said “vertical distribution agreements” with the hotel chains were the result of independent efforts by OTAs to protect their interests and the complaints amounted to “nothing more than parallel business activity”.

“There is nothing anticompetitive, much less unlawful, about a hotel setting specific pricing terms for its distributors so that it competes effectively with other hotels,” defendants stressed in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

The defendants included OTAs Expedia,, Travelocity,, Priceline and Orbitz; and accommodation providers Starwood, Intercontinental, Marriott, Trump International and Hilton.

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