The Dutch Substantial Court docket has dominated that Booking.com is a journey company – the verdict could suggest the Amsterdam-headquartered journey firm will be compelled to be part of the pension fund for the travel sector Reiswerk, which had introduced the situation to the court.
Booking.com experienced correctly argued in two lower courts that it falls outside the house the scope of Reiswerk mainly because it is not a journey company, but just a reservation system. It is obligatory for vacation businesses in the nation to participate in the €653m Reiswerk scheme.
The High Court branded the lessen courts’ rulings as “incomprehensible”, because Booking.com’s web-site reveals that lodging companies pay back a fee to Booking.com soon after a guest has accomplished a keep at the property.
“This does not let for a distinct conclusion than that Scheduling.com mediates in bringing with each other supply and desire for journey arrangements and therefore is an (on-line) travel agency,” the court explained in its ruling.
Commenting on the ruling in a webinar, Erik Lutjens, pension law firm at DLA Piper, said it suits with previously rulings regarding mediation, such as the case of on the web journey agent Standard Travel which unsuccessfully claimed an exemption from the Reiswerk scheme in 2019.
“Mediation typically does not want to go past bringing alongside one another two get-togethers and processing data,” said Lutjens, contacting the earlier verdict exempting Scheduling.com from obligatory participation in the Reiswerk plan an “aberration”.
The Superior Court docket ruling does not indicate that Reserving.com, which had all around 5,000 workers in the Netherlands final yr but is now in the approach of laying off a quarter of its staff members, will join the Reiswerk plan imminently.
Instead, the situation has just been referred back again to the reduced court docket as Scheduling.com nevertheless has two other traces of defence.
Initial, the agency statements it is not really a vacation agent because most of its staff are IT builders. In accordance to Lutjens, this assert is not likely to hold in courtroom although.
“In the regulation that cements the mandatory participation of journey agents in Reiswerk, there’s no concern of mediation obtaining to come about by way of human call,” he mentioned.
Lutjens additional: “The get the job done of the IT builders is all in purpose of Booking.com’s business product which is vacation mediation. Booking.com is not a computer software progress firm.”
Scheduling.com’s 2nd line of defence is its claim that Reiswerk has been far too sluggish in inquiring the company to sign up for the pension fund. Reserving.com was founded in 1996, but Reiswerk only despatched it a notification requiring it to be part of in 2015.
“It’s up to the courtroom to weigh the arguments on equally sides and just take a choice,” explained Lutjens. Theoretically, Scheduling.com workforce could assert a pension from Reiswerk for lots of a long time prior to 2015 if it is resolved that Booking.com is essential to sign up for the vacation sector scheme.
In reaction to the verdict, Reserving.com said it will not right away transform its pension arrangement. Scheduling.com staff currently save for their pension as a result of a non-public outlined contribution prepare.
Booking.com could perhaps get paid an exemption from having to be a part of Reiswerk if it can show its pension arrangement “offers benefits that are at least equal to those people of Reiswerk”, Lutjens pointed out.
Reiswerk merged its defined gain strategy with multi-sector fund PGB at the start off of this year and is at present in liquidation.
The Scheduling.com scenario is not the only a single regarding a electronic system organization. A reduce court ruled in 2019 that Deliveroo will have to join the sector fund for transport companies Vervoer. An appeal by Deliveroo is now pending.