Bipartisan Legislation in the House Aims To Protect Consumers from Online Booking Scams

U.S. Capitol

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) commended U.S. Representatives Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), and Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) for introducing the Stop Online Booking Scams Act. This bill is aimed at shielding millions of travelers by putting an end to harmful marketing practices by third-party hotel booking sites. This act is also a companion bill to the legislation introduced by Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) earlier this week, and gives enforcement authority to the Federal Trade Commission and State Attorneys General for entities that fail to comply with the legislation.

The Stop Online Booking Scams Act intends to rein in the fraudulent and misleading hotel booking transactions that have negatively impacted 28.5 million hotel stays and cost consumers $5.2 billion in 2017 alone, according to research commissioned by AHLA and conducted by Morning Consult. These third-party websites give the appearance of being the actual hotel property or affiliated with the hotel when they are not. The bill prohibits third-party online hotel reservation sellers that are not affiliated with the hotel to advertise, promote, or sell a reservation if they state or imply that they are the actual hotel owner or operator of a hotel.

“Misleading websites, online ads, and search engines are deceiving consumers into believing they are booking their travel directly through a hotels’ website or call center, when there is no relationship,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “The Stop Online Booking Scams Act sends a clear message that this kind of deceptive behavior won’t be tolerated. We thank United States Representatives Peter Welch, Gus Bilirakis, and Lois Frankel for their leadership on this critical issue and encourage their colleagues to join them in protecting consumers across the country from unscrupulous actors by passing this bill into law.”

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“At the Basin Harbor Resort in Vermont, we welcome guests who have traveled far and wide. Ensuring their satisfaction is paramount to our property, and our industry,” said Pennie Beach, owner of the Basin Harbor Resort and Boat Club in Vergennes. “It is important to educate and protect those guests as they search for hotel accommodations online and ensure they know who they are doing business with. I’m grateful to Representative Welch for his continued leadership and for introducing this important legislation, which protects guests as they travel to my property and across the state of Vermont.”

“Florida thrives off the tourism industry, and we simply can’t afford for people to be misled through third-party booking websites,” said Keith Overton, president and COO of TradeWinds Island Resorts based in St. Pete Beach. “All too often, guests who make their hotel bookings through third-party websites arrive at one of our properties only to find out they have fraudulent or inaccurate reservations. I’ve traveled to Washington and discussed this issue with our congressional delegation. I am truly grateful that Representative Bilirakis has listened to my concerns and introduced the Stop Online Booking Scams Act and strongly encourage the entire Florida delegation to join the fight.”

“Misleading third-party websites are masquerading as sites affiliated with a true hotel property,” said Carol Dover, president and CEO, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. “They are deceiving travelers, who often arrive at the check-in counter to find that their reservation was inaccurately conveyed or never even booked. It’s a significant and growing problem that must be addressed. I thank Representative Frankel for introducing The Stop Online Booking Scams Act, which will provide federal and state authorities with the tools needed to help safeguard travelers.”