Posted on 21 Aug 2012 by Neilson
A lawsuit filed on behalf of customers of major online travel sites and hotel operators accuses the companies, including Expedia Inc. (EXPE) and Marriott International Inc. (MAR), of conspiring to fix prices.
The suit, filed by Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP in a U.S. district court in northern California, alleges that online retailers conspired with hotels to thwart competition on hotel room rates.
Travelocity, Priceline.com Inc.'s (PCLN) Booking.com, Hilton Hotel, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.'s (HOT) Sheraton Hotels and Resorts were also named in the suit.
None of the companies could be immediately reached for comment.
"The large online travel sites, working with hotel chains, have created the illusion that savvy consumers can spend time researching hotel rates online to find good deals," said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. "The reality is that these illegal price-parity agreements mean consumers see nothing but cosmetic differences and the same prices on every site."
The complaint alleges that online retailers have been illegally extracting agreements from hotels that online retailers cannot sell rooms under agreed-upon rates, undercutting competition from smaller price-cutting websites.