Brussels fines Melia €6.6m for discriminating against clients based on their residence

By Jacobo Sanchez-Andrade

05-2020

As reported in the Spanish press, the European Commission (EC) has imposed a fine of 6,678,000€ on the Spanish hotel group Meliá Hotels for operating with clauses that discriminate between consumers in the European Economic Area according to their place of residence, which violates European competition law.

"The Commission's investigation showed that Meliá had concluded contracts with tour operators that limited active and passive sales of hotel accommodation" the Commission said said in a statement.

The infringement for which this penalty is imposed lasted from 2014 to 2015 and began to be investigated in 2017.

In February 2017, the Commission opened an antitrust investigation into the hotel accommodation agreements concluded by Meliá and several tour operators, assessing whether these agreements contained clauses that unlawfully discriminated between customers on the basis of their nationality or country of residence.

The Commission's investigation showed that Meliá had concluded contracts with tour operators that limited active and passive sales of hotel accommodation. More specifically, the general conditions of Melia's contracts with tour operators contained a clause according to which the contracts were valid only for reservations by customers resident in certain specific countries.

Such agreements could have segmented the European single market by restricting the freedom of tour operators to market hotel accommodation in all EU countries and to respond to direct requests from customers not resident in the specified countries. As a result, consumers could not view all available accommodation or book rooms at the best prices with tour operators from other Member States.

The Commission has concluded that the illegal practices of Meliá deprived European consumers of one of the fundamental benefits of the single market: the possibility of enjoying a wider range of choice and access to better conditions when shopping.

Meliá has cooperated with the requirements demanded by the Commission during its investigations and has expressly acknowledged the facts and infringements. That cooperation has earned it a 30 % reduction in the amount of the fine in return for that cooperation.