boss renews claims of hotel chain and booking website collusion

16 September 2013 by boss renews claims of hotel chain and booking website collusion

The operator of a hotel discount website has renewed his criticism of hotel chains and booking websites, who he has accused of working together to "fix" prices.

Dorian Harris, chief executive of claimed he was forced out of the market after attempting to undercut his rivals by offering cheaper prices, in a report in The Sunday Times.

Harris claimed he had even been threatened with violence by a hotel owner who was angry at the possibility of their rooms being sold at rates cheaper than those offered with major booking portals.

Harris said he lost 70% of his business when hotel chains demanded he raise prices to keep his prices at the same level as the rest of the industry.

He told The Sunday Times: "We started getting some calls from angry and confused hoteliers insisting that we were selling their rooms too cheaply… I realised a [rival] website had been on to them threatening all sorts of nonsense if they didn't either remove their hotel from Skoosh or force Skoosh to raise its prices."

In a phone call recorded by Harris, a hotel manager in Prague whose hotels he had discounted told him: "You're gone. You will see what's going to happen to you in one week. If you are in Prague then you will see what it means to be threatened."

In 2012, the Office of Fair Trading named hotel giant IHG alongside online booking websites and Expedia in an official "Statement of Objections", alleging that the trio broke competition law in relation to the online supply of hotel accommodation. However, there is no proof so far that any of the three firms did anything wrong and the OFT has not yet delivered its verdict.

The OFT opened a public consultation on new industry proposals, which ended on Friday. Under the proposals, the three companies offered a set of commitments to allow discount sites cut into their profit margin to offer cheaper rooms. But the companies added that offering these commitments was not an admission of any past wrongdoing. declined to comment on the OFT probe. IHG said it had ‘worked closely with the OFT' to agree commitments on how to operate in future.

Expedia said that it welcomes the draft commitments, and said it expects the OFT to close its investigation without taking any action.

IHG declined to comment on Mr Harris's allegations, but has said previously that it has ‘worked closely with the OFT' during the probe.

Office of Fair Trading accuses IHG, Expedia and of limiting price competition >>

OFT probes online hotel booking price fixing claims >>

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