State attorney general discloses antitrust probe in court file
Hotels accused of conspiring with Expedia in online booking
Expedia Group Inc. is under investigation by the Utah attorney general for allegedly conspiring with the biggest U.S. hotel chains to suppress competition in online travel booking.
The office is investigating whether Expedia conspired with Marriott International Inc., Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. and other hotel companies to manipulate search advertising on Google, according to papers filed in state court in Utah last week. Other states have joined the investigation, the office said in the filing.
The allegations were raised in a lawsuit filed in December by TravelPass Group LLC, a Utah-based company that sells hotel room inventory through Google search ads. It accuses hotel chains and Expedia of restricting competition to buy those ads and reducing consumer choice.
Lawyers for Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in their filings they have “reasonable cause to believe that a violation of the Utah Antitrust Act has occurred based upon the allegations set forth in the lawsuit.”
TravelPass’s complaint, which also names Caesars Entertainment Corp. and Hyatt Hotels Corp. as defendants, stems from keyword bidding on Google’s search engine where companies bid on search keywords to display ads at the top of the search results.
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