Cracking down on fraudulent reservation websites

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by Toni-Anne Barry

These days, it seems like politicians cannot agree about anything. Common Ground profiles members of opposing parties who are working together to advance issues important to hoteliers.

THE ISSUE

Online Booking Scams

Fraudulent third-party hotel reservation websites are wreaking havoc on consumers and the travel industry. These websites deceive consumers into believing they are booking a reservation directly with a hotel by creating the appearance of being the hotel’s official website or being an affiliate of the hotel. In reality, these websites are independent companies with no ties to the actual hotel. These scams cause consumers to face a range of issues, from increased and unnecessary fees to fake room reservations. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 23 percent of consumers reported they were misled by a third-party travel seller in 2018. For AAHOA Members, these scams directly result in a loss of business and a growing population of skeptical travelers.

COMMON GROUND

Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) introduced the Stop Online Booking Scams Act of 2019 to combat these scams. The legislation would make it unlawful for a third-party online hotel reservation seller to advertise, promote, or sell a reservation if their website wrongfully states or implies that they are affiliated with or are the hotel when they are not. Under this legislation, third-party websites must clearly notify consumers that they are an independent reservation seller. Under this legislation, both the FTC and state Attorneys General would be given greater authority to crack down on sites that fail to comply with these provisions. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Steve Daines (R-MT) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT)

First Elected: 2006

Committees: Energy and Commerce, Oversight and Reform, Select Committee on Intelligence, Democratic Steering and Policy Committee

“Vermont has world-class resort destinations and hotels that are key contributors to our economic growth. Skiers, hikers, hunters, and fly fishermen should not have to worry about getting ripped off when staying at our great hotels.”

Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)

First Elected: 2006

Committees: Energy and Commerce, Veterans Affairs

“This issue was first brought to my attention by a local hotel franchise owner in Dunedin. She showed me frustrated letters from customers who had unknowingly booked a room at her hotel through a fraudulent third party. Upon arrival, the customers were frustrated to learn that the hotel was fully booked and could not accommodate their travel request. Our bipartisan legislation will help to protect the consumer and small business owners from bad actors by offering greater transparency.”

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