PARIS May 27 French Economy Minister Arnaud
Montebourg filed a legal complaint against U.S.-owned hotel
reservation web site Booking.com on Tuesday over what he said
were anti-competitive business practices in its dealings with
Montebourg, who has frequently clashed with foreign
companies operating in France, said in a statement he had filed
the suit against Booking.com after anti-fraud officials
uncovered what they said were unfair clauses in the firm's
contracts with hoteliers.
The complaint against Booking.com, owned by U.S.-based
Priceline.com, alleges that its contracts unfairly bar hotels
from offering their customers any room price lower than those
displayed on the web site.
It follows a similar complaint filed by a hoteliers' union
against U.S.-based reservation site Expedia, which resulted in
fines, in 2013.
"This approach underscores the French government's desire
and ability to ensure that national rules are respected by
companies operating in the digital sector," the statement from
Montebourg's office said, adding that Booking.com executives had
been summoned to appear before a Paris commercial court.
Booking.com's practices were damaging for competition in the
service sector, as hotels were unable to circumvent the site and
its commissions by offering special prices to customers who
contacted them directly, it said.
Booking.com and Priceline.com representatives did not
immediately return phone calls seeking their response to the
The outspoken minister last month signed a decree that
broadens the state's power to block foreign takeovers in
strategic industries, in keeping with his policy of intervening
in business affairs to protect French firms.
(Reporting by Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Larry King)