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11th June, 2020

Facebook, Booking.com pay contested fines

Facebook and Booking.com have voluntarily paid respective fines of Ft 1.2 billion and Ft 2.5 billion issued by the Competition Authority (GVH) but both companies have challenged the penalties in court, head of the authority Csaba Rigó said on Wednesday.

The GVH fined Facebook Ft 1.2 billion last December, because the company advertised its services as free although it had realised a profit on selling data about users, who were unaware of this.

Facebook thereby misled consumers about the compensation they actually provide to the company, the GVH argued.

The GVH fined Booking,com Ft 2.5 billion in April after finding that its sales policy was too aggressive. Offering free cancellation of bookings was sometimes misleading and Booking.com put users under psychological pressure by presenting data on other consumers looking for the same accommodation, the GVH said.

Speaking to economic news website Növekedés in an interview, Rigó said “everyone knows that Facebook is ‘free’, meaning that you do not have to pay for using it, so the GVH’s decision was a bit surprising”.

Most people are unaware of the value of their data as they do not see how industries have been built to exploit that data and what money they are making on it, he remarked.

The GVH’s aims with these decisions was to make consumers understand the business model on which a platform or application operates, he said.

Sources regularly consulted, with abbreviations used in text: Népszabadság (N); Magyar Hírlap (MH); Világgazdaság (VG); Napi Gazdaság (NG); Magyar Nemzet (MN); Népszava (Nsz); Kossuth Rádió news (KR); nightly TV news (TV).

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