The Stop Online Booking Scams Act would protect consumers from illegitimate third party websites that trick consumers into thinking they are making reservations directly with hotels
Fraudulent online booking 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 confirmation of reservations that were never made
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and a bipartisan group of senators have introduced legislation to protect consumers from online booking scams. The Stop Online Booking Scams Act would protect 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.
“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.”
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:
- Gives Enforcement Authority to the Federal Trade Commission and State Attorney Generals:
- Makes a failure to comply with the third party disclosure requirements an unfair or deceptive act under the Federal Trade Commission Act
- Gives state AGs the authority to bring a civil action against companies who violate this provision
In addition to Klobuchar, this legislation was introduced by Senators Steve Daines (R-MT), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Deb Fischer (R-NE). Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), and Peter Welch (D-VT) have introduced companion legislation in the House.
As co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus, Klobuchar has long supported efforts to increase tourism to the U.S. as a way to drive economic growth. 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 from ticket bots, unauthorized charges on their phone bills, and deceptive practices by fraudulent online travel booking websites. Following reports of deceptive online companies imitating websites of actual hotels or airlines to attract bookings, Klobuchar sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Transportation urging an investigation and for the agencies to use of tools available to help stop these practices. She also cosponsored the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act of 2016, which was signed into law by the President in December. The law prohibits the use of ticket bots and other online measures in order to deliberately circumvent security protocols that limit or restrict online ticket purchases.