Ending Unfair Practices: Hungary Proposes New Booking Law to Empower Hosts and Protect Travelers

by Kassay Tamás

In a world sensation, the Fidesz party (currently in power) has submitted a legislative proposal to the Hungarian Parliament regarding online accommodation platforms, based on the observations of the Budapest Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BKIK) and authorities’ findings. The proposed “Booking Law” not only prohibits the practice of price parity but also holds online platforms accountable for the online reviews appearing on their platforms.

Before delving into the details of the new Booking law proposal, allow me to share a few personal thoughts with the esteemed readers!

It is a remarkable success that the persistent efforts of Spabook, the strength of its voice, and collaborative media pressure with fellow journalists have led to the presentation of a new, stricter “Booking Law” concerning online accommodation platforms before the Hungarian Parliament.

As the founder and author of Spabook, I take pride in following and researching the background and details of the Booking scandal for months, providing information to the Hungarian press, and collectively keeping the issue in the headlines until it reached the legislative threshold.

I extend my gratitude to every representative of the media who took over materials from Spabook, engaged with the topic, worked thoroughly, and cited our publication as a source.

Simultaneously, I express my recognition to the policymakers who embraced the issue and took the necessary steps based on the reports.

Congratulations to them for the birth of the proposed law, now awaiting approval on the table.

I trust that the Parliament will endorse the proposal – a highly likely scenario.

As we know, in the summer of 2023, the leading online accommodation platform, Booking, abused its dominance by withholding payments from hosts worldwide for months.

“Our goal is to prevent any multinational company from exploiting both holidaymakers and Hungarian entrepreneurs in the future,”

– said Szatmáry Kristóf, head of the Fidesz faction’s business development cabinet, to MTI on Wednesday.

Key Points of the New Booking Law Proposal in Hungary:

Hungary new booking law proposal
  • According to the Booking proposal, accommodation platforms must fulfill their payment obligations to hosts within max. 45 days.
  • In the future, exchange rate risks cannot be solely imposed on hosts; platforms must bear them equally.
  • Accommodation platforms covering at least 3 counties and major digital corporations serving in Hungary must maintain Hungarian-language customer service and respond meaningfully to received complaints within 30 days.
  • The law also prohibits the use of unfair contractual terms against hosts.
    • This grants hosts the right to appeal to Hungarian administrative authorities in case of disputes,
    • eliminates mandatory price parity, and
    • holds the platform responsible for the content of guest-written reviews.

“We continue to expect that no multinational corporation abuses its size and dominance against the Hungarian people and businesses,” reads the statement.

The new Booking law in Hungary addresses an old, serious problem: an end to fake, malicious reviews and defamation!

If approved, the law states that the accommodation platform is responsible for the content of reviews written by guests. Hosts have long faced issues where, in certain contentious cases, revenge comments and negative reviews are generated that are blatantly untrue, do not reflect reality, and demonstrably contain false and malicious content.

Spabook opinion: This innovation is a world sensation, opening the door to new contentious cases while attempting to address an existing, real problem.

Also noteworthy is the elimination of price parity. The law states that hosts can sell their rooms at any price, potentially cheaper for those booking directly, regardless of the advertised price on the platform.

Additionally, a crucial point states that the general terms and conditions (GTC) becoming an integral part of the contract will render unfair contractual terms null and void. Therefore, what happened earlier this summer, where Booking signed an agreement with all its partners allowing them to fulfill payments essentially indefinitely, becomes unlawful from the enactment of this law onwards. Rightly so. GTC is not omnipotent, as I have mentioned before.

The story-series of Booking.com scandal can be read here.

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