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TOURISM

Spain’s competition watchdog opens probe into Booking.com

Spain's competition watchdog said Monday it had opened an investigation into popular hotel reservation website Booking.com for possible anticompetitive practices.

SPAIN-INTERNET-BOOKING.COM
Founded in 1996 and headquartered in the Netherlands, Booking.com has been the target of several "unfair competition" investigations in recent years, especially in the European Union.(Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

The probe follows complaints from the Spanish Association of Hotel Managers and the Regional Hotel Association of Madrid, which accused Booking.com of abusing its dominant position, said the watchdog CNMC.

“The conduct under investigation may entail unfair trading conditions to hotels located in Spain,” it said in a statement.

“The investigation also covers practices that may exploit a situation of economic dependence for these hotels.”

These practices “may amount to unfair competition acts affecting public interest due to the distortion of free competition they have produced,” the watchdog said.

Founded in 1996 and headquartered in the Netherlands, Booking.com has been the target of several “unfair competition” investigations in recent years, especially in the European Union.

In response, Booking.com has reviewed its commercial strategy to allow hotels to offer better rates to customers who book directly by telephone or at the reception desk.

The CNMC has 18 months to reach a final decision on whether the company has violated competition rules in Spain.

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CRIME

Spanish police seize 4.5 tonnes of cocaine off Canaries

Spanish police announced on Saturday the seizure of 4.5 tonnes of cocaine aboard a Togolese-flagged cargo ship from Latin America which was intercepted off the Canary Islands.

Spanish police seize 4.5 tonnes of cocaine off Canaries

The “Orion V”, which transported cattle from Latin America to the Middle East, had been under surveillance for over two years and had previously been “checked and searched, but no drugs could be found inside, despite the presence of sufficient clues”, police said.

A joint naval and air operation finally made the breakthrough locating the cocaine on Tuesday, hidden in a container used to feed the cattle.

The operation mobilised among others the American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre for narcotics (MAOC-N), the Togolese authorities and the Spanish police.

The 28 crew members from nine countries were arrested.

The “Orion V” was similar to another Togolese-flagged vessel, the “Blume”, which was intercepted in mid-January in the same area south-east of the Canary Islands, on which the same amount of cocaine was found.

A total of nine tonnes of drugs have been seized in January, police said in a statement.

Spain’s proximity to North Africa, a key source of hashish, and its close ties with former colonies in Latin America, the world’s main cocaine-producing region, have made it a gateway into Europe for drugs.

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