CJEU rules that online platforms may by sued in state of the plaintiff in cases of abuse of dominant position

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has issued a judgment in Case C-59/19 Wikingerhof GmbH & Co. KG v Booking.com BV stating that a hotel using the platform Booking.com may, in principle, bring proceedings against Booking.com before a court of the member state in which that hotel is established in order to bring to an end a possible abuse of a dominant position. 

Hotel Wikingerhof, a Germany-based business, started to offer its accommodations through Booking.com in 2009. In 2015, Booking.com changed its terms and conditions and Hotel Wikingerhof claims it was forced to agree with them, as Booking.com is too big of a player in the online reservation market to leave the website. Hotel Wikingerhof sued in a German court, claiming that Booking.com had abused its market position by forcing the hotel to adopt unfair practices. 

Booking.com argued that German courts do not have jurisdiction in this case, and the matter should have been filed with a Dutch court, as this is a contractual matter and their headquarters are in Amsterdam. Under the so-called Brussels Regime, which determines legal jurisdiction in the EU, companies generally must be sued in the country where they are headquartered.

The matter was referred by the German Federal Court of Justice to the CJEU, which now ruled that  the legal issue at the heart of the case in the main proceedings is whether Booking.com committed an abuse of its dominant position within the meaning of German competition law and not the contractual relationship of the parties. The CJEU concluded that the case brought forward by Hotel Wikingerhof is based on the legal obligation to refrain from any abuse of a dominant position, and therefore German courts have authority in this case.

This decision is of importance for vendors and partners of big platform businesses in the EU, allowing them to seek remedy against abuses of dominant position by big platforms within their national jurisdictions.