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Bipartisan bill would crack down on online hotel booking scams

Bipartisan bill would crack down on online hotel booking scams
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in both chambers has reintroduced legislation aimed at combatting online hotel booking scams.

The Stopping Online Booking Scams Act, which accrued over 40 co-sponsors in the Senate during the last Congress before it stalled, would make it illegal for scammers to fool customers into thinking they are paying for hotel services when they are not.

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The bill, introduced Wednesday, would require unaffiliated third-party booking websites to disclose that they are not affiliated with the hotel before charging customers any fees. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general would be empowered to take action against third-party online hotel reservation sellers that are not upfront with customers. 

Over the past several years, consumers have reported a spike in online hotel booking scams, as third-party websites fail to properly disclose to consumers that they are not directly affiliated with the hotels. 

Reps. Lois FrankelLois Jane FrankelShakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Hillicon Valley: Democrats demand answers over Russian interference bulletin | Google Cloud wins defense contract for cancer research | Cyberattack disrupts virtual classes MORE (D-Fla.) and Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) are introduced a version in the House while senators led by Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharStart focusing on veterans' health before they enlist Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (D-Minn.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesDemocrat trails by 3 points in Montana Senate race: poll Poll shows statistical tie in Montana Senate race Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE (R-Mont.) introduced it in the Senate.

"Travel reservations made on fraudulent websites can be costly and stressful for travelers,” Klobuchar, a 2020 presidential contender, said in a statement. “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.”

The legislation would make it unlawful for any third party online hotel reservation seller to charge a consumer if the website "implies that it is, or is affiliated with, the person who owns the hotel or provides the hotel services or accommodations."

Daines in a statement pointed to Montana's tourism industry as a "large source of our economy."

"It is important that visitors and travelers to our state are not scammed and have assurances that the hotel room they booked will be there when they arrived," he said in a statement.

Hoteliers for years have lobbied Congress to take action against the scams, which have resulted in unnecessary fees and fake confirmations of reservations that were never made.