Unsavoury finger in the fees pie

Recently we received a comment about a Mr Daniel Kirchhof who sneakily registers domain names containing hotel names. People searching for a hotel might happen across one of Kirchhof’s links and assume it is a direct link to a hotel. Clicking on the link takes the user to a page that looks genuine and contains a room availability that if booked is done so through HotelReservation.com who in turn are using Booking.com’s affiliate programme!

Kirchhof’s practice is no idle hobby. Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation and Six Continents Hotels, Inc. requested the transfer of no less than 1,542 domain names in a single UDRP (Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy) complaint brought against respondent Daniel Kirchhof. They alleged infringement of their HOLIDAY INN, HOLIDAY EXPRESS, INTERCONTINTAL, CROWNE PLAZA, STAYBRIDGE SUITES, HOTEL INDIGO, and CANDLEWOOD SUITES brands. The defendant had registered numerous – now that’s an understatement – domain names with the pattern “BRAND-PLACE NAME”; e.g. “holiday-inn-london-stansted.com”.

Kirchhof’s domain names pointed to the booking engine www.hotelreservation.com, and he collected affiliate fees for referrals. It was noted by the hearing panel, “When arriving at the Respondent’s websites, Internet users were likely to believe that they had arrived at the official website for one of the Complainant’s hotels, as that is the clear impression given by the website content. As the websites provide a mechanism for booking at the hotel (albeit through another provider), the Complainant is likely to suffer commercial loss when an Internet user books through the Respondent’s website when compared with a booking directly on one of the Complainant’s websites.” Unsurprisingly, Inter-Continental Hotels Corporation and Six Continents Hotels, Inc were successful in their request.

We’re not suggesting that the major online travel agents condone Kirchhof’s underhand approach but it does serve to highlight that Kirchhof sets out to do exactly the same as the big players. He aims to get between the hotel and their customers in the hope that the customer follows his link.

Finally, why go to such lengths? Well that’s what we pay 15% commission for; so that the majors can afford to give some away to their affiliates and inturn for them to afford to pay their affiliates. Even a minute percentange is worth a punt if you know what you’re doing, isn’t that right Mr Kirchhof.

Published on May 24th, 2010 Uncategorized

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