WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced bipartisan legislation to protect consumers from online booking scams.
The Stop Online Booking Scams Act makes it unlawful for a third party online hotel reservation seller who is not affiliated with the hotel to advertise, promote, or sell a reservation if they state or imply that they are the actual owner or operator of the hotel. It ensures that companies that fail to comply with the law are liable for unfair and deceptive acts under the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act. Further, it gives state Attorneys General the authority to bring a civil action against companies who violate this provision.
“Travel reservations made on fraudulent websites can be costly and stressful for travelers,” Klobuchar said. “As more and more people turn to online booking websites to plan their travel, our legislation will help to crack down on bad actors and protect consumers.”
“Montana’s booming tourism industry is a critical part of our economy and provides high paying jobs for our communities,” Daines said. “It’s important that visitors and travelers to our state are not scammed and must have the assurances that the hotel room they booked will be there when they arrive. That’s why I introduced my bipartisan bill, to help stop online booking scams to protect Montana jobs, tourism economy and the folks who visit our great state.”
Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and cosponsored by Representative Peter Welch (D-VT), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee which has jurisdiction over the legislation.
“According to recent research, consumers overwhelmingly (94 percent) 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. 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,” said Chip Rogers, President and CEO, American Hotel & Lodging Association.
As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights, Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight to protect consumers. In April, Klobuchar and Daines sent a letter to major online hotel booking companies asking them to commit to improving protections for online consumers. Booking Holdings, Inc. (Booking Holdings), and Expedia Group, Inc. (Expedia Group) affiliates Booking.com, Expedia, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers, and trivago made commitments to change certain business practices in order to protect consumers in the United Kingdom. In a letter to the Chief Executive Officers of Booking Holdings and Expedia Group, the senators asked that they make these same commitments with respect to their online hotel booking businesses in the United States. In April 2019, Klobuchar’s bipartisan legislation with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the Seniors Fraud Prevention Act, which directs the (FTC) to establish an office to educate seniors about fraud schemes and improve the agency’s monitoring and response to fraud complaints, passed the Senate Commerce Committee.