BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Electronic travel service companies Amadeus AMA.MC and Saber SABR.O are under investigation by the EU into contract terms that the bloc’s antitrust watchdog could prevent airlines and travel agents from switching to competing ticket agents.

The logo of Amadeus, the world’s leading provider of technology and distribution solutions for the travel and tourism industry, can be seen on the company’s site in Sophia Antipolis, France on May 30, 2016. REUTERS / Eric Gaillard

Airlines typically sell around 70% of their tickets through third parties such as travel agents, but have strained relationships with global distribution service providers (GDS) such as Amadeus and Saber, which use software networks to sell products such as airline tickets and hotel rooms to consumers. .

These companies typically make much higher profit margins than the airlines whose tickets they help distribute.

Previous attempts to bypass them and send customers to their own reservation systems have usually resulted in loss of customers and then rollbacks.

The European Commission on Friday opened an investigation into the two companies, saying the practices of Amadeus and Saber could violate EU competition rules and lead to higher prices for consumers.

“We are concerned that such restrictions create obstacles to innovation and increase the costs of distributing tickets, ultimately raising the price of tickets for travelers,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

Vestager can impose fines of up to 10 percent of a company’s global turnover for breaking EU rules.

Amadeus said its business practices comply with legal and regulatory requirements, and airline distribution is affected by the business behavior of airlines and airline groups, among other factors.

“Consideration of any factor must take into account its dependence and impact on all other factors to avoid undermining the neutral market and thus harming consumers,” the company said.

Saber said he would cooperate with the Commission.

“Our goal has been – and will continue to be – to provide travel agencies with competitive access to airline content in the Saber system and to provide a solution that balances value for airlines, agencies, businesses. and travelers, ”the company said.

Three years ago, Europe’s largest airline, Lufthansa LHAG.DE, rocked the industry by charging fees for tickets booked through third parties in an attempt to gain more control over its prices and increase revenue.

Owned by IAG ICAG.L British Airways and Iberia airlines then followed suit last year.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by David Goodman and Louise Heavens

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