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Competition Office fines booking.com operator HUF 2.5 bln

Hungaryʼs Competition Office (GVH) on Tuesday said it fined the Dutch operator of online booking site booking.com HUF 2.5 billion for unfair business practices, according to a report by state news wire MTI.

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GVH said booking.com had falsely advertised "free cancellation" of commercial accommodations and had used "aggressive" sales techniques to put "psychological pressure" on would-be customers.

The authority said booking.com had built the price of the "free cancellations" into the price of lodgings.

It said booking.comʼs practice of showing messages communicating demand for lodgings, such as "32 looking at this lodging" or "High in demand! 17 bookings in the last 24 hours", amounted to psychological pressuring.

GVH added that booking.com did not give equal treatment to domestic commercial accommodations that accept the SZÉP voucher card, which may have distorted travelersʼ decisions.

The authority prohibited the practices from January 1, 2021 and instructed the operator to document, in detail, compliance measures by March 31, 2021.