In December 2015 the Bundeskartellamt (German Federal Cartel Authority) decided to prohibit Booking.com Deutschland GmbH from applying its “best price” clauses and ordered the hotel booking portal to delete the clauses from its contracts and general terms and conditions by 31 January 2016.
Under the clauses hotels were obliged to always offer Booking.com their lowest room prices, maximum room capacity and best booking and cancellation conditions available on all online and offline booking channels (so called ‘wide’ best price clause). During the proceedings against Booking.com the company had offered to introduce a modified 'best price' clause. Under this new clause Booking.com allows the hotels to offer their rooms cheaper on other hotel booking portals but still prescribes that the prices which they offer on their own hotel websites may not be lower than on Booking's hotel portal (these are known as ‘narrow’ best price clause). The Bundeskartellamt ruled now that both types of clauses are inconsistent with German competition law.
Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt stated: "These so-called narrow best price clauses also restrict both competition between the existing portals and competition between the hotels themselves. Firstly they infringe the hotels' freedom to set prices on their own online sales channels. There is little incentive for a hotel to reduce its prices on a hotel booking portal if at the same time it has to display higher prices for its own online sales. Secondly, it still makes the market entry of new platform providers considerably difficult. The 'best price' clauses barely provide an incentive for the hotels to offer their rooms on a new portal cheaper if they cannot implement these price reductions on their own websites as well. There is no apparent benefit for the consumer."
Booking.com can still appeal against the Bundeskartellamt's decision to the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court and apply for interim relief against the immediate enforceability of the order.