Hungary fines operator 6.1 million pounds for unfair practices

FILE PHOTO: The logo of online accommodation booking website is pictured at the International Tourism Trade Fair (ITB) in Berlin, Germany, March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian competition watchdog GVH has fined online reservation operator BKNG.O 2.5 billion forints (6.1 million pounds) for unfair business practices, including misleading advertisements and psychological pressure on consumers.

The watchdog said in setting the fine it had taken into account the Netherlands-based company’s fee income from the Hungarian market following a probe into the website launched in 2018.

“ B.V. has led unfair business practices by misleading advertisements claiming free cancellation for some accommodation as well as by exerting aggressive psychological pressure to facilitate faster bookings,” the GVH said.

A representative said in an email response to Reuters that the company was “disappointed by this decision by the Hungarian Competition Authority.”

“Everything on our website, including how we display prices and payment policies as well as the availability and popularity of specific properties, among other features relevant to the customer booking experience, is intended to help customers,” the representative said.

The Hungarian watchdog said the free cancellation option was available only for a limited scope of bookings and customers were also charged a premium for the option as had built it into accommodation prices.

Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Jonathan Oatis