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EU Policy. Booking.com gatekeeper under EU's online competition rules

EU Commission Vice President Vestager.
EU Commission Vice President Vestager. Copyright Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Cynthia Kroet
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Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta and Microsoft already fall under the scope of the rules.

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Hotel and apartment rental website Booking.com has been designated as a gatekeeper under the EU’s competition rules for platforms, the Digital Markets Act (DMA), the European Commission said today (13 May).

This followed the Dutch company notifying the Commission on 1 March that its services potentially met the DMA thresholds. The EU law brings in tougher rules for tech companies and makes it easier for users to move between competing services.

The EU executive also said it opened a market investigation to further assess the rebuttal submitted by online platform X, after it said it did not qualify as a gatekeeper. The Commission said it would complete the investigation within five months.

It decided not to designate X Ads and TikTok Ads.

"Booking is an important player in the European tourism ecosystem and is now also a designated gatekeeper. We will work to make sure it will fully comply with the DMA obligations within six months," Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market said in a statement.

Booking.com, launched in 1996, says it offers a total of more than 28 million listings of accommodations, including more than 6.6 million listings of homes and apartments. 

A spokesperson for Booking.com told Euronews that it has been working with the European Commission for some time in anticipation of today's decision.

"We are reviewing their designation decision now and will continue to work constructively with them as we develop solutions to comply," the spokesperson added.

Challenges

Last September, the EU executive already designated six gatekeepers under the platform rules: Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta and Microsoft. They had until September to comply with the obligations, by ensuring that the online environment is fair for other businesses and consumers.

Both TikTok and Meta appealed their designation. In the case of Meta, it challenged its designations for its Messenger and Marketplace platforms but did not appeal against the status for Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

TikTok said at the time that its designation “risks undermining the DMA's own stated goal by protecting actual gatekeepers from newer competitors like TikTok.”

In March the Commission started non-compliance investigations into Alphabet's rules on steering in Google Play and self-preferencing on Google Search, Apple's rules on steering in the App Store and the choice screen for Safari, and Meta's “pay or consent model”.

The Commission announced additional checks to gather information in relation to Amazon's self-preferencing and Apple's alternative app distribution and new business model.

This story has been updated to include a comment from Booking.com.

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