Consumer advocacy group says bill is latest industry effort to have public bypass independent websites that allow travelers to save money and compare options

WASHINGTON – JULY 29, 2019 –Travel Fairness Now, a consumer advocacy organization representing 70,000 travelers, today urged the public and U.S. Congress to not be deceived by the hotel and airline industries’ latest tactic in their ongoing war on easy, side-by-side online comparison shopping that saves travelers and businesses money. 

On July 24, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), as well as U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), reintroduced the Stop Online Booking Scams Act. 

The legislation, championed by the hotel industry for several years, has no credible data to support its claims of “hotel booking scams.” In addition, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has said it already has the enforcement authority it needs should claims of consumer harm actually materialize. 

At a time when the challenges facing travelers are growing in number, the legislation attempts to solve a problem fabricated by the hotel industry to boost its bottom line by giving a government agency authority it already has and says it doesn’t need. 

“This legislation is a big business-written hoax and solution in desperate search of a problem,” said Kurt Ebenhoch, executive director of Travel Fairness Now. “A more accurate name for this bill would be the ‘Stopping Online Savings for Travelers Act,’ as it is nothing more than an effort to scare the public away from popular, independent websites, the vast majority of which have outstanding records of customer service and saving travelers money.” 

Hotels and airlines continue to scare public in an attempt to boost profits

Hotels and airlines earn more money from consumers that book directly on their own websites, which only show travelers what an individual hotel or airline offers, regardless of whether less expensive or better options are available through competitors. While limiting comparison shopping opportunities increases the likelihood that a hotel or airline will get consumers’ money, the consumer may have been able to find a better price or better option on a competitor they never saw or knew about.

Independent travel websites are not loyal to a particular airline or hotel. Instead, they are committed to helping consumers explore all of the available options and find the best flight or hotel that meets their individual needs.  

Independent travel sites provide consumers with a quick, comprehensive window to many more travel options. The competition they create often results in downward pressure on prices as suppliers match or adjust their prices based on the options available. Independent websites also give consumers access to new or lesser-known hotels and airlines.

Surveys and studies show that consumers’ preference is to access a single travel website that provides a comprehensive set of options, versus visiting multiple hotel and airline websites.

“We applaud meaningful efforts to protect consumers, and there are plenty of other deceptive airline and hotel practices that are very important to the flying public which need Congress’ attention,” Ebenhoch added.  “While we know airlines and hotels would prefer to sell exclusively through their own websites, frightening travelers on false pretenses harms both the public and the larger travel industry.”

About Travel Fairness Now

Travel Fairness Nowis made up of more than 70,000 travelers who believe easy, online comparison shopping and genuine transparency are critical to competition, which is vital to health of American families, businesses, communities and the economy. Before travelers can begin the flying experience, they need to survive the buying experience. Travel Fairness Now is endorsed by the American Society of Travel Agents and the Travel Technology Association. For more information, visit www.travelfairnessnow.org.