By Jonathan Copping, Lawyer, Stone King, London, UK
With the 2018 FIFA World Cup just over 3 months away, attention has turned to the prices being charged for accommodation in the host country, Russia.
As with the majority of international events, demand for accommodation increases and proprietors attempt to exploit the demand by charging vastly increased rates. The forthcoming World Cup in Russia has been no exception and the authorities have taken steps to stop hotels from increasing their prices.
Rospotrebnadzor, the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing, has been issuing fines to hotels that are charging vastly increased rates. The Moscow branch of Rospotrebnadzor has issued fines equivalent to £76,000 to 198 legal entities and 181 individuals. On the face of it, the fines appear to amount to a significant sum; however, they actually amount to a fine of just £383 per legal entity and that is without even factoring in the 181 individuals. It is uncertain, therefore, whether the fines will actually have any effect, considering that the price increases are likely to dwarf the size of the fine.
Separately, Rospotrebnadzor has launched a hotline allowing people to call up and complain about prices being charged to fans in relation to accommodation, merchandise sales and consumer rights, leading up to and during the tournament.
Prior to the Russian authorities taking this action, reports had been surfacing that accommodation prices in the host cities had increased by up to 2,489 per cent for June 2018, compared to June 2017.
The average price of a hotel room in the cities where England will play their three group stage matches have increased by a minimum of 247 per cent. The first group stage match against Tunisia, in Volgograd on 18 June, will see supporters having to pay, on average, £162.80 per room, compared to £37.80 in June 2017. Similarly, the second group stage match, in the city of Nizhny Novgorod on 24 June, will see supporters having to pay £240 per room, compared to £39 in June 2017. And the final group stage match, which will quite possibly be the decider as to who wins the group, against Belgium in Kaliningrad on 28 June, will see supporters having to pay, on average, £500 per room, compared to £45 in June 2017.
It is disappointing that FIFA has made no statement on the reported price hikes, which do nothing to enhance the reputation of the ‘beautiful game’, and also considering that the success of the tournament, to a certain extent, relies on supporters from all over the world being able to travel to Russia to attend the matches. It is that possibility of supporters from all 32 participating countries, integrating together, that makes the World Cup such a special sporting event.
If that possibility is removed, the tournament loses its international character and ends up being attended only by people from the host nation!
Jonathan Copping may be contacted by e-mail at ‘JonathanCopping@stoneking.co.uk’