On 20 January 2022, the Competition Commission (“Commission“) commenced an enforcement action in the Competition Tribunal (“Tribunal“) in connection with an agreement to fix the prices of tourist attractions and transportation tickets sold at a number of hotels, in breach of the prohibition against anti-competitive agreements under the Competition Ordinance (Cap. 619) (“First Conduct Rule“) . The participants of the cartel included two competing travel service providers that agreed to fix prices and nine hotel groups and a tour counter operator that facilitated the anti-competitive conduct by passing on pricing information between the travel service providers.
The Commission commenced its investigations into the travel services sector price-fixing cartel following a leniency application, which led to the Commission issuing infringement notices to six hotel groups and a tour counter operator in January 2021, all of whom have subsequently entered into commitments to comply with the infringement notice.
The latest enforcement action commenced in the Tribunal against the remaining participants of the cartel concludes the Commission’s investigations. The Commission is seeking a declaration that the respondents have contravened the First Conduct Rule, pecuniary penalties, costs, a director disqualification order and the adoption of a compliance programme. Of the six respondents named, three have elected to cooperate and as a result the Commission is seeking to dispose of proceedings against the cooperating respondents by consent.
The investigation into the travel services sector price-fixing cartel illustrates the Commission’s regulatory toolkit and the approach it will take to undertakings that cooperate during different stages of its investigations. For further information, the Commission’s guidelines and policy documents can be found here.