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EU Big Tech Legislation Gets Backlash From Booking.com

Brussels-based Booking.com is speaking out against the European Union’s plans to regulate the reservation site as a “gatekeeper” in the hotel industry, according to a report in the Financial Times. 

Considered one of Europe’s only tech giants, Booking.com said the EU’s plans will give unfair benefits to foreign competitors.

“We are one of the very, very, very few tech successes in Europe. Let’s be obvious and blatant about this. And our government regulator wants to handcuff us,” Glenn Fogel, chief executive officer of booking.com, told the news outlet. 

He called the proposed EU rules “shocking” and said some regulations will “hobble” Booking.com while benefiting foreign competitors like Expedia. The company said it has $15 billion in global revenues. “European companies will suffer,” he added.

Brussels is in the process of writing new legislation to reel in Big Tech, with plans to impose rigid regulations on at least 20 of the biggest firms. Companies will not be called out individually.

The EU is still deliberating over the legislation and there are no conclusions yet, sources told the Financial Times. 

Fogel said labeling Booking.com as a gatekeeper is “crazy” because just 13 percent of European hotel revenues come from the site. “That means 87% of transactions are being done somewhere else,” he said. “That sounds like a lot of choice.”

Robin Rossmann, managing director at hotel industry data group STR, said Booking.com is a lot stronger in Europe than the reservation site Expedia.

“Ultimately, online travel agencies [OTA’s] are better placed to market hotel rooms at discount rates,” he said.

Booking.com has almost 68 percent of the European OTA market, the biggest share in the industry, according to Statista. 

Last year the European Commission came down on Booking.com for having manipulative practices and forced it to change how it was selling online. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets worked with the EC for a year to get Booking.com’s practices on par with EU consumer law.

The Connecticut company that owns travel Booking.com  — Booking Holding Inc.  — said in August that it was going to lay off 25 percent of its workforce, about 4,250 positions, due to the pandemic. The publicly-traded company had 17,0000 employees at the beginning of August. At the time it had also employed 5,500 people at its office in the Netherlands.

Regulators from many countries, including Russia, have been considering the best way to handle Big Tech. Computers and mobile devices sold in Russia have been required to have Russian software pre-installed since July 1.

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