Booking Holdings' planned €1.63 billion acquisition of ETraveli was blocked on Monday by EU antitrust authorities over fears it would strengthen the company's dominant position in the travel agency sector.
The European Union says it is blocking leading US online travel agency Booking from acquiring Sweden's flight booking provider Etraveli Group. The EU Commission says the move would have allowed Booking to increase its dominant position on the market on the continent.
The European Commission said it had warned Booking Holdings about its concerns but the solutions put forward by the company were insufficient.
"Booking proposes to display offers from competing hotel authors on its flight checkout page, which is best shown to travelers after they purchase their flight tickets. The selection and ranking of authors and competitors were not sufficiently transparent and non-discriminatory," said Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice of the European Union.
Booking's brands include Booking.com, Rentalcars, Priceline and Agoda.
Following its investigation, the Commission said it found out the proposed €1.63bn deal would have led to higher costs for hotels, and possibly, a negative impact on the price paid by consumers.
“Bans are rare, and today’s decision is in fact the first merger to be blocked this year,” EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said.
The deal received an unconditional green light in the UK last year, highlighting the differences in regulatory approach between markets.
According to the European Commission, online travel agencies handle transactions worth more than €100 bn per year.