Skyscanner is poised to challenge the ruling that supposedly brought to an end a long-running dispute over hotel price parity on the web.
The Edinburgh-based firm has objected to the fact that it was bound by an original ruling by the Office of Fair Trading, now the Competition and Markets Authority.
This drew commitments from booking.com, its parent Priceline, Intercontinental Hotel Group and Expedia to allow more price competition in the room-only market.
However, Skyscanner objected to the fact that it was bound by the ruling and said its business would be directly and substantially affected by the commitments.
Skyscanner argues that the OFT failed to properly take account of its representation to the original tribunal that underlined the impact it would have in meta-search and inter-brand competition.
The commitments the OFT originally secured allowed deeper discounting by OTAs, but only if this was to closed user groups of pre-existing customers like members of a loyalty scheme.
Skyscanner was one of six travel firms (mainly meta-search sites) that wrote to the CMA in March with their concerns about the implication of the ruling saying it would result in a worse deal for consumers.
Following this Skyscanner then lodged its appeal with the Competition Appeal Tribunal and this is due to start in London on Monday and last for two days.
Skyscanner said: “In a nutshell, we believe it will be much harder for consumers to compare available rates and find the best prices as a result of the decision.
“The requirement to make a full price booking before benefiting from discounts, and the low frequency of purchases of hotel rooms means that it would take considerable time to recoup the cost of making a single booking at full price on a number of travel agency sites in order to access each of these sites’ discount groups.
“To find the best price customers will also need to visit multiple websites with separate logins, making it difficult to identify and compare the best price. We therefore feel that this is a large backwards step in online travel and reduce transparency of pricing in the market.
“We want the CMA to reopen its investigation so that the industry can work together to find a transparent and competitive means of comparing the best prices offered by hotels and online travel agencies.”
UK hotel site Skoosh was the original complainant and its director Dorian Harris will be giving evidence in the latest court battle next week.
He said he did not really understand the OFT’s original ruling, however, he said it had made the situation “worse than before” although it did mean Skoosh could still trade.
Harris has written a blog on the ongoing case and how was drawn back into the dispute after it became clear the competition authority was now being defended by the firms it previously investigated.
“I’m going to see this chapter through because I have to and I know that, whatever happens now, I can take comfort in the knowledge that there’s already a blockbuster movie here.
“Even if it’s not likely to be the classic fairy tale of good winning over evil there’s more than enough material to play with here.
“This screen-play can blend the rational with the insane, fantasy with reality, feature a bit of glamour and a lot of pot. I’m picturing “Erin Brockovich meets Cheech and Chong”.”
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