A Travel Sites and Hotels Conspiracy?

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A new lawsuit says travel sites all show the same prices because they're gaming the system.

Yesterday, two consumers sued a bunch of travel sites and hotel companies – sites like Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Priceline, Hotels.com and major hotel brands including Hilton, Marriott, Starwood (i.e. Sheraton and Westin), and Kimpton.

The accusation? Price-fixing. A “conspiracy” to “maintain and/or enforce minimum resale price maintenance agreements,” the lawsuit says. It also argues the big sites bully (“leveraged their substantial market power”) hotels into not selling cheaper rooms through smaller competitors.

The lawsuit quotes a Travelocity spokesperson as calling this a “standard industry practice.” It also quotes one of those smaller competitors, Skoosh, which has complained publicly that when it lowered prices, “hotels would email, call, and threaten legal action,” which “created a Mafia-style atmosphere.”

The two plaintiffs, Nikita Turik and Eric Balk, are demanding a jury trial. Industry representatives declined to comment or failed to respond to calls about the story in Bloomberg, Marketplace, Reuters, and Fox Business, among others.

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