European regulators eye Booking.com under Digital Services Act


The European Commission has taken its next step in regulating online platforms and search engines with a request for information from a number of companies including Booking.com.

The formal request has been made to 17 companies that the Digital Services Act (DSA) characterizes as very large online platforms (VLOPs) or very large online search engines (VLOSEs), which are those with at least 45 million monthly users.

Bing, Facebook, Google and Google Maps have also been sent requests for information, which requires the provision of access to data to researchers that is “publicly accessible on their online interface.”

“Access to data by researchers is key to ensure accountability and public scrutiny of platforms’ policies,” the European regulator said. “Researcher access to publicly available data greatly contributes to the goals of the DSA, which is particularly important in view of upcoming events such as elections at national and [European Union] level, as well as for an ongoing monitoring of the presence of illegal content and goods on online platforms.”

The platforms and search engines have until February 8 to provide the information, after which the commission will decide its next steps.

If a company is designated a platform or search engine under the DSA, it is expected to, among other criteria, have user-friendly terms and conditions and “be transparent as regards advertising, recommender systems or content moderation decisions.”

Booking.com is also expected to meet the threshold to be deemed a gatekeeper under the Digital Markets Act in the coming weeks.

Digital gatekeepers are large companies that are an access point for consumers and are able to use their market position and power in a way that impacts other markets. The online travel giant said in July 2023 that it did not meet the threshold but that it expected to at the end of the year. 

Its statement at the time said, “We are engaged in constructive discussions with the European Commission on the applicability of the DMA and look forward to continuing this dialogue. As a result of the impact of COVID-19 on our business, we do not meet the DMA’s quantitative thresholds for the time period associated with the July 2023 submission deadline. We are aligned on this with the European Commission. However, we expect that these thresholds will likely be met at the end of this year, in which case we would expect to notify the European Commission of that fact within the required deadlines.”

PhocusWire has contacted Booking.com for comment.


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