Antitrust agency to survey travel industry amid rising pent-up demand

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South Korea’s antitrust chief has pledged to step up the investigation into unfair trade practices in the travel industry amid an imminent recovery in travel demand as the country prepares to return to normal.

South Korea plans to ease long-standing restrictions on gatherings and business operations with its switch to the “living with COVID-19” program on November 1 intended to gradually restore daily life to pre-pandemic times.

The move could spur pent-up travel demand, raising concerns that consumers may be exposed to unfair trading activities from online hotel booking platforms.

“First and foremost, the FTC will rectify unfair trading activities in areas such as travel and performance,” said Joh Sung-wook, head of the Fair Trade Commission, in a meeting with reporters Wednesday.

The antitrust regulator has ordered remedies for the unfair business activities of five accommodation platforms, including Interpark, Booking.com and Agoda.

They have been accused of undermining fair competition by abusing a clause known as the most-favored nation, which prevents hotels that have accepted the clause from offering lower prices on other platforms.

“We plan to review the implementation of the order,” said Joh.

Joh also said the FTC will “quickly” finalize an investigation into allegations that these online travel agencies failed to notify consumers that they had placed certain hotels higher in search results after receiving fees. publicity on their part.

At the same time, she said the FTC would complete its review “by this year” of a deal made by Korean Air Lines Co., the country’s largest carrier, to buy the debt-ridden company Asiana Airlines Inc. .

In November 2020, Korean Air announced that it would acquire its smaller domestic rival Asiana Airlines in a deal valued at 1.8 trillion won ($ 1.5 billion) that could create the 10th largest airline in the world in terms of fleets.

Industry watchers expect the takeover, if approved, to reshape the country’s aviation sector that has been rocked by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, but critics have said the merger could create a monopoly in the country’s airline industry. (Yonhap)

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