Are Hotels and Online Travel Agencies Colluding on Keyword Bidding?
It began simply enough. A small company wanted to make some money in online travel. So it joined Expedia Affiliate Network, where the online travel agency shares its hotel inventory with third-parties, sharing part of the commissions on any bookings.
To juice their returns, the entrepreneurs became assertive in marketing. The company bought ads on Google, using its AdWords program, which auctions ads tied to search terms. The affiliate outbid other players on keywords associated with hotel brand names.
InterContinental Hotels Group, Choice, and Hilton promptly sent the affiliate cease-and-desist notices, according to The Capitol Forum, a Washington-based investigative news and legal analysis publication. Capitol Forum reported the incident Tuesday, keeping the name of the affiliate anonymous.