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Business trends

Japan's booking-site clampdown exposes industry's arm-twisting

Powerful online players Rakuten, Expedia and hold enormous clout over hotels

Japanese hotel operators have alleged that travel booking websites restrict their ability to set room prices.

TOKYO -- The Japanese fair trade watchdog's raids on the offices of travel booking websites Expedia, and Rakuten Travel on Wednesday reveal the massive influence that online bookers have amassed, accounting for 90% of reservations for some hotels.

While on the surface booking sites appear to present customers good deals by promising the lowest rates on hotel rooms, the way the major players pressure hotels from offering cheaper deals to smaller websites with lower commissions, for instance, is a restrictive practice that keeps prices high, the Japan Fair Trade Commission suspects.

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