SAO PAULO (AP) — The Brazil government will investigate whether FIFA's official accommodation agency was involved in "cartel" practices that may lead to hotel price hikes during the 2014 World Cup.
The government announced Thursday that a committee recently created to monitor excessive price rises during the World Cup will check whether the actions by MATCH Services "can be characterized as cartel."
The committee will analyze the hotel reservations made by MATCH in the 12 World Cup host cities to check if they affect market prices.
Government officials said they will also meet with the airline industry next week to make sure there are no excessive hikes in travel prices during next year's tournament.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff created the monitoring committee following complaints by consumer advocates and amid reports of outrageous price increases in the tourism sector projected during the World Cup. A study by Brazil's tourism board earlier this year showed that some hotel rates will be up to 500 percent more expensive during the month-long tournament in some hotels offered by the FIFA-appointed agency.
The government wants to know how many rooms MATCH has reserved in the host cities because, according to Brazilian legislation, anything more than 20 percent of the local market can be considered cartel.
"We want to make sure that the prices will be fair and won't be abusive to the Brazilian and the international consumers," said Gleisi Hoffmann, Rousseff's chief of staff.
The probe of MATCH's practices and the start of discussions with the airlines were among some of responsibilities given to the committee after a meeting in Brasilia on Thursday. The committee will also be in charge of mapping out the prices and the quality of services in hotels, restaurants and airports.
MATCH and FIFA did not immediately answer a request for comment, but have previously denied all accusations of wrongdoing.
MATCH reached agreement with nearly 800 hotels in Brazil soon after the country was picked in 2007 to host the 2014 World Cup. The Swiss-based company says it does not regulate prices and notes that charges are set by the hotel owners and other tourism stakeholders.
It says it is primarily responsible for contracting and delivering accommodation for the FIFA community, including its officials, teams, delegates, guests and staff. It also sells rooms to FIFA's commercial affiliates, the media and customers of the official hospitality program. Rooms are offered to the general public through the FIFA website operated and maintained by MATCH.
The Brazil government also announced it will work with the cities to set up an alternative accommodation plan during the World Cup, although no details were immediately available.
Tourism projections estimate nearly 600,000 foreigners and some 3 million Brazilians are expected to move around the country during the World Cup that next June.
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