Competition Office urges probe into Booking.com travel agency debts
Kristof Szatmary, the Fidesz chairman of the session, said the body was seeking ways to prevent international companies from “amassing debts of billions of forints using its superposition”.
GVH head Balazs Csaba Rigo said preparations were being made for the probe, and the actual investigation could start before the end of August. He added that the probe should be completed within 30 days, but the term could be extended if necessary.
Following the session, Szatmary said that “pressure would be maintained” on the company “until all (Hungarian) companies receive their money”. Unless all due payments are made by Booking.com by the beginning of next week, “the measures will be continued . perhaps with another committee meeting,” he said.
Rigo welcomed that Booking.com had started making payments to some of its debtors. He said the GVH had the powers to launch expedited investigations in case of “market distortions” and in such cases it could make proposals for legal changes. The office can also examine if a company has abused its market position, he added.
Rigo noted that Booking.com had in 2020 been fined 2.5 billion forints (EUR 64.5m) for using “aggressive methods” and “unethical marketing practices”.
Aniko Suhajda-Molnar, deputy head of the Hungarian Tourism Agency (MTU), said the MTU had surveyed some 40,000 Hungarian service providers, 16 percent of which had returned the questionnaires. Out of 6,000 respondents nearly 3,000 complained about the “payment problem” with Booking.com, she said. Fully 45 percent said booking.com “constantly changes payment due dates”, and 26 percent said they had not received any notifications about problems delaying payment. She added that Booking.com owed over one million forints each to nearly 700 providers. She also added that the MTU had launched a helpline to aid complainants.