International Journal of Tourism, Travel and Hospitality Law 2023

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF TOURISM, TRAVEL AND HOSPITALITY LAW these features to mislead the consumers, e.g., by giving a false impression of a room’s popularity or not displaying the full cost of a room upfront. Recommended search results might not be in the interest of the consumer but may result from a hotel’s payment to receive a higher ranking. Since online platforms can collect all sorts of data on consumers and their online behaviour, the possible exploitation of the consumers’ behavioural biases is also a concern.7 Hotels and other tourist accommodation providers listed on online travel agents’ platforms benefit from increased visibility which brings in increased demand and new customers due to the platform’s wide customer base and their advertising. When consumers see a hotel on a platform and then book it via the hotel’s own website, this is referred to as billboard effect. The platforms can also provide accommodation providers with analytics concerning their user base, thus helping them to make their offers more competitive and adjusted to potential guests’ requirements.8 On the other hand, the use of platform means that accommodation providers themselves obtain less information on their customers and become more dependent on the platform’s data. Since a few large mediate the vast majority of transactions between consumers and accommodation providers, they benefit from strong network effects.9 Their gatekeeper role gives rise to the concern that they will act as private rule-makers as businesses often feel pressured into accepting the platforms’ terms on a ‘take it or leave it basis’.10 This can result in unfair conditions, such as high commission rates and price parity clauses which restrict the hotel from offering better prices or otherwise more favourable conditions on their own website (narrow parity clause) or through any other sales channels other than the contracted platform (wide parity clause).11 Hučková and Semanová point out that the emergence of online platforms is accompanied by three main problems: i) insufficient possibility of competition and weak competition in platform markets; ii) unfair trading practices towards commercial users; and iii) fragmented regulation and supervision of entities operating in these markets.12 7 Ibid., p. 17-18. 8 Ibid., 2022, pp. 19-20. 9 Hučková and Semanová, 2022, pp. 513–514. 10 VVA and LE Europe, 2022, p. 21. 11 Quinn, 2021, p. 3. VVA and LE Europe, 2022, p. 22 and 69. 12 Hučková and Semanová, 2022, p. 512.