Senate, House: We Need to Stop Online Booking Scams

U.S. CONGRESS —U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-MT), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and U.S. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Peter Welch (D-VT) today introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to protect consumers from online booking scams.  

The Stop Online Booking Scams Act protects consumers from illegitimate third-party websites that trick consumers into thinking they are making reservations directly with hotels.

Online booking sites have created a marketplace where consumers can shop for hotels across thousands of brands on a single platform. The rise of online booking (480 bookings per minute) has brought with it an increase in online booking scams. Fraudulent websites give the appearance of being connected to a hotel, but actually have no relationship with them. Transactions on these sites can result in additional hidden fees, loss of expected loyalty points, or even fake confirmation of reservations that were never made. The Stop Online Booking Scams Act addresses this problem. 

“Tourism is a key part of Montana’s economy and provides good-paying jobs,” Daines stated. “Folks expect the reservations they made are there when they arrive. You should get what you pay for.”

“No family should have their vacation ruined when they show up at their hotel with their reservation only to find out they’ve been duped,” said Nelson.  “This bill will crack down on fraudulent sites that trick consumers into booking rooms that don’t exist.”

“Hotel reservations made through fraudulent websites can be costly and stressful for travelers,” Klobuchar stated. “As more and more people turn to online booking websites to plan their travel, our bipartisan legislation will help to crack down on bad actors and protect consumers.”

“Technology puts the world at our fingertips, but it also presents new challenges. Online booking scams are creating frustration for families across the country,” Fischer stated. “Our bipartisan legislation would help protect people from these fraudulent sites and reduce stress for Americans.”

“I’m proud to continue working with my colleagues in Congress in preventing fraudulent hotel booking websites from further scamming innocent consumers,” Ros-Lehtinen stated. “As a Representative of one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, promoting travel and tourism is one of my core missions, however, the rise of fraudulent hotel booking websites and call centers are hurting travelers, local businesses, and the American tourism industry. This common sense legislation would ensure online booking sites are transparent for the consumer by making sure there are clear indications which websites are not affiliated with the hotel website or call in information. In Congress, it is imperative that we address these deceptive practices and do all we can to eliminate these perpetrators from further taking advantage of consumers.” 

“You shouldn’t have to be a detective to know if the hotel room you’re booking is real,” said Frankel. “This bill will reduce the risk of a dream vacation turning into a nightmare.”

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

Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association:  “We thank Senators Daines, Nelson, Fischer and Klobuchar, as well as Representatives Ros-Lehtinen, Frankel, and Welch, for their leadership on this critical issue and look forward to working with them and their colleagues to protect consumers by moving this important legislation through the legislative process in both chambers of Congress. Our guests expect and deserve transparency. Every minute we wait to pass this commonsense legislation, more people fall victim to these deceptive practices.”

The Stop Online Booking Scams Act:

Recognizes the Consumer Benefits of Legitimate Booking Sites:

  • Includes a sense of Congress that recognizes the robust online marketplace that allows consumers to easily compare brands and make reservations
  • Notes that actions by third-party sellers that misappropriate brand identity or use deceptive sales tactics are harmful to consumers

Narrowly Targets Illegitimate Third Party Reservation Sellers:

  • Makes it unlawful for a third party online hotel reservation seller who is not affiliated with the hotel to accept payment for a reservation unless the seller discloses that they are not affiliated with the hotel
  • A third-party seller may achieve this by:
  1. Including conspicuous language throughout the transaction
  2. Including prominent display of the seller’s brand identity 

Gives Enforcement Authority to the Federal Trade Commission and State Attorneys General:

  • Makes a failure to comply with the third party disclosure requirements an unfair or deceptive act under the Federal Trade Commission Act
  • Gives state Attorneys General the authority to bring a civil action against companies who violate this provision