WASHINGTON—The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) commended Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on their bill aimed at protecting millions of travelers by putting an end to deceptive marketing practices by third-party hotel booking sites. According to research commissioned by AHLA and conducted by Morning Consult, fraudulent and misleading hotel booking transactions negatively impacted 28.5 million hotel stays and cost consumers $5.2 billion in 2017 alone.
The Stop Online Booking Scams Act intends to rein in fraudulent websites that mislead consumers into thinking they are making a reservation directly with the hotels. These third-party websites give the appearance of being the actual hotel property or affiliated with the hotel, when, in fact, they are independent operators. 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. The legislation also gives enforcement authority to the Federal Trade Commission and State Attorneys General for those entities that fail to comply with the legislation. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has also been a partner in this effort, offering a tips page to educate consumers on how to avoid scams when booking hotels online.
“According to recent research, consumers overwhelmingly want to know who they are doing business with when booking a hotel room online. Unfortunately, every day, deceptive websites, online ads, and search engines mislead thousands of consumers into believing they are booking directly through a hotel’s website or their call center, when, in fact, they have 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 Senators Steve Daines and Amy Klobuchar for their leadership on this critical issue and encourage their colleagues in Congress to join them in protecting consumers across the country from unscrupulous actors by passing this bill into law.”
“Every single day I have guests arrive at my front desk who have been deceived during the booking process by a third-party reseller. From not having a room, to paying more than they should, to not receiving their rewards or loyalty points, these scams take different forms but ultimately harm the consumer. I traveled from Billings to Washington, D.C., and met with Senator Daines specifically on this issue, and I thank him for listening to my concerns and for taking action to protect consumers and help ensure they no longer fall victim to these deceptive practices,” said Steve Wahrlich, past chair of the Montana Lodging & Hospitality Association and owner of the Best Western Plus ClockTower Inn in Billings.
“The hotel, travel, and tourism industry in Minnesota has a great champion in Senator Amy Klobuchar and we are truly grateful for her continued leadership,” said Liz Rammer, president and CEO, Hospitality Minnesota in St. Paul. “The lodging industry is a major driver of our state’s economy—providing more than 100,000 jobs and generating an economic output of $19 billion. Unfortunately, fraudulent third-party websites posing as legitimate hotels put these economic engines at risk and harm travelers in our state. I thank Sen. Klobuchar for sponsoring the Stop Online Booking Scams Act to protect travelers in Minnesota and throughout the country from deceptive websites.”