Founded in 1999, Decolar.com is among the biggest sites when it comes to selling travel related products to Brazilians online. It is the Brazilian (and the strongest) branch of Latin American operation Despegar.com. Despegar is Spanish for decolar, which is Portuguese for to take off, and we all know how important localization is. By the way, Despegar.com is the biggest online travel operation in Latin America.
And it is in hot water now over allegations that Decolar.com has been making use of geopricing. “What is geopricing?”, you may ask. It is the practice of offering the same product for different prices depending on the user’s location.
One of Decolar.com’s main competitors, Booking.com collected evidence that Decolar.com was indeed doing geopricing. In some cases, discrepancies reached 500%. And more surprisingly, there were times when hotel’s showed no rooms available when researched by users located in Brazil, but showed vacancies for users in other countries.
Booking.com made sure to collect the evidence in notaries’ offices in the different locations that were being affected by Decolar.com’s geopricing strategy in order for the evidence to be acceptable in court.
According to Brazilian magazine Exame, the rationale behind Decolar’s strategy was to attract more foreign tourists because they spend more (probably on extras such as room service) and, depending on their country of origin, in stronger currency during their stay. Still according to Exame’s article, Decolar.com made this possibility available to their partner hotels.
Decolar argues that, since Despegar.com and Decolar.com are different companies managing local sites, they are entitled to price products differently. But the Brazilian government thinks otherwise and has fined Decolar.com in R$7.5 million (roughly 2 million American dollars). Failure to comply with the decision may cause Decolar.com to go offline.
According to the government’s decision, the fine levied upon Decolar.com takes into account “the gravity and the extension of the damage caused to consumers all over the country, the advantage earned and the company’s financial situation.”