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Hotel Consumer Protection Coalition
Objection to change request
Comment Submission Date:12 February 2016 at 02:52:35 UTC
The following comments are filed in response to the change order submitted by applicant Booking.com B.V. (“Booking.com”), posted January 12, 2016, for <.hotels>. These comments are submitted on behalf of the following international hotel companies: Accor Hotels, Choice Hotels, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Marriott and Wyndham Worldwide Corporation (collectively, the “Hotel Companies”).
The Hotel Companies are concerned that the changes requested by Booking.com do not adequately address the GAC Advice on Category 2 Safeguards, which states, “For strings representing generic terms, exclusive registry access should serve a public interest goal.” In response to this GAC Advice, Booking.com had informed ICANN that the <.hotels> TLD would not be operated as “an exclusive access registry” (https://newgtlds.icann.org/sites/default/files/applicants/09oct13/gac-advice-response-1-1016-75482-en.pdf) despite various comments in its application, such as, “parties who are not Booking.com or – insofar and to the extent Booking.com deems appropriate – an Affiliate within the meaning of the Registry Operator Agreement will not be entitled to register domain names in the .hotels gTLD.”
However, although Booking.com’s change request has deleted the above-quoted language, the change request continues to include provisions that could prevent the operation of the <.hotels> TLD in the “public interest” and/or that could allow its operation as an “exclusive access registry.” For example:
- Paragraph 18B of the application states that “Booking.com reserves the right to impose additional and other restrictions from time to time at its sole discretion.” This broad language is unreasonable and could allow Booking.com to operate the <.hotels> TLD solely for its own benefit or for the benefit only of those who have agreed to any terms demanded by Booking.com, regardless of whether they serve the public.
- Paragraph 18B also allows Booking.com to launch the <.hotels> TLD pursuant to “certain criteria, which Booking.com will be entitled to set at its own discretion.” Again, this broad language is unreasonably restrictive, possibly contrary to the public interest and potentially creates a registry with exclusive access.
- Paragraph 18B also says that “hotels and affiliates” will, at least immediately, have only an “indirect… platform to promote themselves in the safe and secure .hotels online environment.” This reference to “indirect” is at best unclear and could allow Booking.com to operate the <.hotels> TLD in an exclusive manner or in a manner that does not further the public interest.
- References to such terms as “eligible trusted third parties,” “hotel partners,” “business affiliates,” and “affiliate partners” are not clearly defined and could exclude the Hotel Companies and/or others who would contribute to operation of the <.hotels> TLD in the public interest.
In light of the above, the Hotel Companies believe that the change request does not comply with the GAC Advice on Category 2 Safeguards or with the ICANN Applicant Guidebook’s goal “to foster diversity, encourage competition, and enhance the utility of the DNS.” Accordingly, the Hotel Companies request that ICANN reject Booking.com’s change request and, therefore, not proceed further with this application until such time as, at least, the above concerns have been adequately addressed.
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