Singapore: Singapore Hotels Fined For Exchanging Commercially Sensitive Information Over WhatsApp

Last Updated: 20 February 2019
Article by Hannah C. L. Ha, John M. Hickin and Joshua E. Y. Seet

On 30 January 2019, the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) imposed a fine of S$1,522,354 on the owners and operators of the following hotels in Singapore for engaging in anti-competitive conduct:

  • Capri by Fraser Changi City Singapore (Capri)
  • Village Hotel Changi and Village Hotel Katong (Village Hotels)
  • Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Hotel (Crowne)

The parties were found to have exchanged commercially sensitive information in relation to the supply of their hotel rooms to corporate customers, in breach of section 34 of Singapore's Competition Act.

In particular, a sales representative of Capri was found to have exchanged commercially sensitive information with a sales representative from Village Hotels from at least 3 July 2014 to 30 June 2015, and with a different sales representative from Crowne from at least 14 January 2014 to 30 June 2015.

What constitutes commercially sensitive information

The information exchanged in this case included the following:

  • Bid prices in response to corporate customers' requests for room rate quotes
  • Percentage by which customers asked for prices to be dropped, and the position that each hotel would take in response
  • Customers' potential room night requirements in the coming contractual period
  • Customers' current and/or historical room rates and/or room night take-up
  • Perceived price sensitivity of a particular customer
  • Whether or not a corporate customer is a key account of the hotel
  • Whether or not one hotel intends to pursue the other's corporate customer

Notably, the kind of information that could be considered commercially sensitive is potentially broad, and may extend beyond obvious categories of information like future pricing and discounts. For example, information about whether a customer is a competitor's key account was competitively sensitive as it influenced whether or not other hotels would actively compete for, and price to, the customer. Information about a customer's price sensitivity was also commercially sensitive as it influenced how other hotels receiving this information priced to the customer.

Communications over WhatsApp

Most of the communication of commercially sensitive information appears to have taken place via WhatsApp messages. Two sales representatives knew each other as they were previously ex-colleagues, and continued to remain in communication.

It is usual for employees to keep in touch with ex-colleagues in the same industry, and they may even be part of a WhatsApp group comprising individuals working for different competing establishments. While there is nothing inherently wrong with keeping in contact with people from the same industry, it is essential that businesses counsel their employees not to share commercially sensitive information with competitors.

Importantly, being part of a large WhatsApp or chat group comprising industry participants increases the risk of being involved in an illegal exchange of commercially sensitive information. As long as one participant in the chat group communicates commercially sensitive information to the group, all the other participants in the group may be liable for an anti-competitive infringement even if they may not have responded to or relied on the information. This presents obvious challenges given that it is difficult to control what others may say in WhatsApp or other chat groups. At the very least, therefore, businesses should be aware of the types of industry chat groups their employees are part of, and counsel them about the kinds of information that cannot be shared in the group and what to do if an employee does receive commercially sensitive information in a chat group.

Responsibility for acts of agents

In this case, the hotel owners had mostly left the day-to-day operations to the hotel operators they had engaged to manage and operate their hotels. Some owners had argued that they should not be liable for the conduct of their respective sales representatives as the sales representatives acted under the direction and control of the operators, and the owners were not aware of, nor sanctioned, the illegal conduct.

These arguments were rejected. The CCCS considered that the owners and their respective operators each formed a single economic entity, as the operators worked for the benefit of and carried out the instructions of their respective owners and could be regarded as an auxiliary organ of their owners. The hotel operators were agent of their owners as they did not bear any economic risk, and were not in a position to act independently in respect of the activities that they were entrusted to perform. Each single economic entity as a whole was responsible for the conduct of their respective sales representatives, and the owners, as part of the single economic entity, were also jointly and severally liable.

Accordingly, hotel owners that outsource the management and operation of their hotels to other operators should be aware that they may still be liable for any anti-competitive conduct occurring under the watch of the operators. A lack of knowledge or approval of such conduct may be insufficient to avoid liability.

Responsibility for acts of employees

Separately, some hotel owners were also directly liable for the conduct of their sales representatives as the sales representatives were employees of the hotel owners. The CCCS noted that employers were responsible for the anti-competitive conduct of employees who were acting within the scope of their employment, and it is not open for employers to escape liability by arguing that they had not instructed their employees to engage in the anti-competitive conduct.

It is worth highlighting that some jurisdictions like Hong Kong take an even stricter approach by also finding individuals personally liable for competition law infringements (see our update here for further discussion).


As this case clearly illustrated, it is rarely the case that a plea of ignorance or lack of involvement would allow businesses to escape liability for the actions of their agents and employees. It is therefore crucial for businesses to be aware of what goes on under their charge, and set clear rules about the types of conduct that are unacceptable.

Originally published 14 February 2019

Visit us at

Mayer Brown is a global legal services organization comprising legal practices that are separate entities (the Mayer Brown Practices). The Mayer Brown Practices are: Mayer Brown LLP, a limited liability partnership established in the United States; Mayer Brown International LLP, a limited liability partnership incorporated in England and Wales; Mayer Brown JSM, a Hong Kong partnership, and its associated entities in Asia; and Tauil & Chequer Advogados, a Brazilian law partnership with which Mayer Brown is associated. "Mayer Brown" and the Mayer Brown logo are the trademarks of the Mayer Brown Practices in their respective jurisdictions.

© Copyright 2019. The Mayer Brown Practices. All rights reserved.

This article provides information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed herein. Please also read the JSM legal publications Disclaimer.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions