October 24, 2021

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Planned EU digital crackdown will ‘handcuff’ Booking.com, boss says

European Union - Jon Nazca/Reuters
European Union – Jon Nazca/Reuters

Booking.com has warned that sweeping new legislation for digital businesses in the EU would “handcuff” the travel site, seen as one of Europe’s few tech champions. 

Brussels is drawing up new rules which would penalise internet giants, applying only to those which were considered ‘Big Tech’ firms, based on criteria such as their market share and users.

Regulators are reportedly considering measures such as forcing those larger firms to share data with rivals, in a bid to open up markets to smaller competitors. 

Whilst Silicon Valley companies would likely be the hardest hit by such rules, Netherlands-based Booking.com told the Financial Times that European companies “will suffer”.

Booking.com generates global revenues of $15bn (£12bn), and is among the largest online travel sites in the world. 

Boss Glenn Fogel told the newspaper that Booking.com was “one of the very, very, very few tech successes in Europe”. “Let’s be obvious and blatant about this. And our government regulator wants to handcuff us.”

He said it was “shocking” that Booking.com may be penalised under the new rules, warning they could “hobble” the site and instead benefit foreign rivals such as China’s Ctrip. According to Mr Fogel, Booking.com is responsible for around 13pc of all hotel revenues in Europe. 

Breaking up big tech | Who wants to curb the power of FAANG?
Breaking up big tech | Who wants to curb the power of FAANG?

The criticism comes as EU officials are still drafting the new laws, which are not expected to target individual companies. Draft legislation is expected by the end of the year. 

Some suggestions for the new powers have included excluding large tech companies from the EU altogether, if those companies’ positions in the market are hurting both smaller rivals and customers.

Last month, EU commissioner Thierry Breton told the FT that under “certain circumstances”, the bloc may also have “the power to impose structural separation”.

The EU is not the only region looking at ways it can curb the dominance of Big Tech, and in the UK, the Government has yet to respond to an investigation by the competition regulator which suggested new laws were needed in Britain. 

Earlier this year, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said the Government should pass new legislation to make it easier to regulate the digital advertising market, which is dominated by Google and Facebook.

This month, Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said the regulator was readying to launch fresh probes into the two tech giants if the Government failed to set up a new regulatory regime within the next year. 

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