Three members of the Florida congressional delegation are looking to crack down on online booking scams.
Last year, U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., teamed up to offer the “Stop Online Booking Scams Act” which would require full disclosure for third-party hotel reservation websites with violators facing fines of up to $11,000 and having their websites shut down, give state attorneys general more power to pursue action against fraudulent websites and streamline the reporting process to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The two South Florida congresswomen cited figures from the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA),which is backed the proposal, which found almost 15 million Americans were bilked out of $1.3 billion due to conmen using scam hotel booking websites.
While they did not get their proposal across the finish line last year, Frankel and Ros-Lehtinen brought it back on Wednesday with some additional support. U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., joined the two South Florida congresswomen in bringing out the proposal in the House. Over in the upper chamber, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., joined Republicans Steve Daines of Montana and Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota to introduce the proposal in the Senate.
“I’m proud to continue working with my colleagues in Congress in preventing fraudulent hotel booking websites from further scamming innocent consumers,” Ros-Lehtinen, who announced at the end of last month that she would not run for reelection next year, said on Wednesday. “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.”
“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.”
AHLA continues to support the proposal as Katherine Lugar, its president and CEO, went to bat for it on Wednesday.
“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,” Lugar said. “Our guests expect and deserve transparency. Every minute we wait to pass this commonsense legislation, more people fall victim to these deceptive practices.”