Colombia has fined popular travel website Booking.com for operating in the country without registration and trying to monopolize its market, the government said Tuesday.
The company has been investigated for its alleged unfair competition in 2014 and was fined $12,200 (COP36 million). According to the Ministry, this is the maximum fine that can be imposed in these cases.
Turkey, one of the other countries that has been investigating the website’s controversial business model, ordered Bookings.com to to a $650,000 fine.
Booking.com has used its dominant market position to charge regional tourism service providers a 10% commission, but disallowed associated tourism operators to offer discounts to travelers using other travel websites. According to the Ministry this effectively was an attempt to monopolize the website’s control over the booking industry.
While the fine was relatively low, Trade Minister Maria Claudia Lacouture said in a statement she wanted to set an example.
We want to set a precedent and notify micro, small and medium tourism businesses that have not been authorized or have only partly done so, that now it is time to play ‘good’ in Colombia,
Trade Minister Maria Claudia Lacouture
Regulators from the superintendency of Industry and Commerce will continue to investigate whether other possible sanctions for actions such as unfair competition, misleading advertising, and abuse of a dominant position will handed out to Booking.com.
“If we unite, we can make more companies operate in accordance with the laws of Colombia. To achieve this, it is important to report cases like this and to promote the culture of formalization in tourism throughout the country, “said Minister Lacouture.
Apart from Colombia and Turkey, Booking.com has been investigated for unfair competition in the United Kingdom, France, Sweden and Italy.