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Utah-based online booking agency Travelpass Group LLC alleges that online travel agency Expedia colludes with Marriott, Wyndham and several other major hotel chains to manipulate Google search results from competing brands. If proven true, the alleged actions would violate antitrust laws governing online travel booking.

“The defendant hotels’ illegal activities have severely reduced, and in many cases even eliminated, the revolutionary benefits of the Internet economy for hotel consumers,” Travelpass said in its lawsuit. “The conspiracy has left in its wake an online travel booking marketplace characterized by deliberately limited information and high transaction costs.”

Travelpass originally filed its lawsuit in Texas, and the case has been picked up by a number of US state attorneys general. The agency’s complaint also implicates Hilton, Caesars Entertainment, Hyatt, Six Continents Hotels (part of InterContinental), Choice Hotels and Red Roof Inn as defendants.

Federal and state antitrust laws prohibit collusion between companies that would harm competition. The Travelpass lawsuit alleges that Expedia, which also owns Orbitz, Hotels.com and Trivago, actively coordinated agreements between its partner hotels to avoid bidding on branded keywords on Google’s AdWords platform, going so far as to provide monitoring reports on agreement compliance. Expedia also instructed affiliate agencies like Travelpass to follow the company’s policy, or else risk losing access to hotel room inventory.

The Utah state attorney general’s office opened its investigation after Travelpass filed the complaint. A local Utah court has ordered Travelpass, which currently is undergoing arbitration proceedings with Expedia, to civil investigative demands.

TPG reached out to Expedia, Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Choice Hotels, InterContinental and Caesar’s Entertainment but had not hear back from most defendants as of the time of publication. Red Roof Inn told TPG that the company is not making any statements regarding the lawsuit at this time, and Wyndham also said it has no comment to offer.

Featured photo courtesy of Marriott.

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