The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) today applauded a group of bipartisan Senate leaders on the introduction of legislation aimed at stopping online hotel booking scams that affect some 15 million hotel bookings a year, translating to $1.3 billion in bad bookings annually.
The Stop Online Booking Scams Act, the Senate companion to H.R. 4526, was introduced today by Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Bill Nelson (D-FL). The bill will provide vital safeguards and take necessary corrective action to stop scammers from mimicking legitimate hotel websites and exploiting unassuming consumers. Third-party booking sites will be required to have continuous, prominent notification that their websites are not associated with a specific hotel’s website before any consumer’s credit card is charged, making it crystal clear to consumer who they are doing business with online.
“Consumers should always have the utmost confidence in the online booking process from start to finish and they should feel safe and protected when booking travel online. This legislation sends a clear message that this kind of deceptive behavior will not be tolerated,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of AH&LA. “As the digital marketplace continues to grow and evolve, consumers deserve transparency, and every minute we wait to pass this commonsense legislation, more people fall victim to these deceptive practices.”
In today’s digital age, consumers rely on the comfort and ease of online hotel bookings. With online travel bookings surging over the past several years, averaging 480 hotel bookings per minute, so has the rate of scams. Research shows that an increasing number of consumers are misled into making hotel reservations through fraudulent websites and call centers that give the appearance of being a hotel’s website, but actually have no relation to the hotel.
The Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau and various other consumer advocacy groups have already issued strong warnings about these scams. And just recently, Senators Klobuchar and Fischer asked the FTC to investigate these deceptive practices.
The House version of the bill was introduced in February 2016 by Representatives Lois Frankel (FL-22) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), and currently has 23 co-sponsors.
In addition to reinforcing the protections provided by the House version, the Senate companion legislation also protects against “meeting pirates,” which are third-party companies that misrepresent themselves as the official lodging provider for a given convention or trade show. Preying on lists and convention calendars, these deceptive users exploit similar tactics to lure in unsuspecting customers and dupe them out of legitimate reservations – causing extreme frustration, lost or cancelled reservations and nowhere to go in often booked-up cities.
“The problem is only getting worse. We see new dimensions to the scams—like these ‘meeting pirates’—everyday unfortunately,” said Lugar. “As long as scammers continue to get a pass, they are going to find new and more sophisticated ways of taking advantage of more travelers.”
Lugar added, “We thank Senators Daines and Nelson and again Representatives Frankel and Ros-Lehtinen, for their leadership on this critical issue and look forward to working with them and their colleagues to protect consumers by passing this important legislation.”
To view an infographic on the scope of online booking scams and how the Stop Online Booking Scams Act will protect consumers, please click here.
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