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Travel websites Expedia and Booking.com are now offering more choice to European consumers thanks to contract changes pushed through by national competition watchdogs.

Since 2010, national antitrust agencies have cracked down on so-called “parity clauses” in the contracts between booking websites and hoteliers that limit if the hotels can vary room prices or availability between sales channels – such as their own websites and those of others.

Watchdogs hope the ability for hotels to offer different prices will encourage existing websites to compete with each other over their fees, could attract new websites to startup and will provide consumers more choice and better prices.

Regulation varies by country, however parity clauses have been curtailed in Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden since 2010. Booking.com loosened their EU-wide contractual restrictions in July 2015 and Expedia followed in August 2015.

The report analysed hotel room price and availability between January 2013 to June 2016 and found that some hotels took advantage of the change to offer different prices. However most providers did not vary their prices and nearly half of the hotels responding to the questionnaires did not even know the terms had changed.

Regulators are keeping the review open and plan to reassess the competitive situation “in due course”.

Thursday’s report used data gathered from 20 online travel agents, 11 meta-search websites and 19 large hotel chains and a sample of 16,000 hotels in ten Member States ( Belgium, Czech, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and the UK).

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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