Bipartisan legislation aims to stop false hotel advertising
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) have introduced bipartisan legislation cracking down on false advertising practices. H.R. 4489. The Hotel Advertising Transparency Act of 2019 will require that consumers are shown the full pre-tax price of a hotel room. It allows full price comparisons for all hotel purchases by travelers.
Record numbers of travelers are subjected to deceptive hidden fees
“This summer, we witnessed a record number of Americans take the opportunity to travel. Unfortunately, this also meant a record number of travelers were subjected to deceptive hidden fees charged by hotels, motels, and other places of accommodation,” said Congresswoman Johnson. “It is projected that in 2019, over three billion dollars in revenue alone will be collected from consumers due to these hidden fees.
“Travelers should be able to enjoy their vacation without being ripped off and financially burdened. This bipartisan bill requires truth in hotel advertising. The prices advertised by hotels and online travel agencies will include all mandatory fees charged to a consumer, excluding taxes.”
Travelers should see straightforward prices in hotel advertising
“When travelers search for hotel options, they deserve to see straightforward prices. They should not get hit with hidden fees that are designed to confuse consumers and distort the actual price. I am pleased to support this legislation that will result in greater transparency for the traveling public,” said Congressman Fortenberry.
The bipartisan Hotel Advertising Transparency Act of 2019 prohibits false hotel advertising and other short-term lodging deception. Hotels and places of short-term lodging such as vacation rentals will be required to advertise a rate for a room that includes all required fees other than taxes and government fees. The FTC, along with Attorneys General from across the country, will have the ability to enforce this provision through the Federal Trade Commission Act.
Attorneys General from DC and Nebraska have already filed lawsuits against this practice
In July, Attorneys General for the District of Columbia and the state of Nebraska filed lawsuits against Marriott International and Hilton Worldwide. These lawsuits target actions that hide the true price of hotel rooms from consumers in advertising. The deceptive practice of false advertising by later adding resort fees to advertised prices to increase profits will be eliminated.
“Consumer advocacy groups have long argued about the deceptive practices of hoteliers regarding hidden fees. We are proud to have the support of organizations such as Consumer Reports and Travelers United as we fight to ensure that all hotels and short term rentals show full transparency when advertising rates for rooms,” added Congresswoman Johnson.
“Travelers shouldn’t have to read the fine print to figure out all the fees they’ll be charged for staying at a hotel,” said Anna Laitin, Director of Financial Policy for Consumer Reports. “Hotels should be required to disclose all fees in their advertised rate, so consumers won’t get stung with a higher bill than what they’re expecting to pay when booking a room.”
This bill stops one of the most hated fees in travel
“The U.S. Congress is taking on the most hated fee in travel. We urge Congress to support this bipartisan common-sense bill. It is important to note that this bill does not just cover mandatory fees for hotels, but it also will require that all fees are disclosed in the advertised rate for short term rentals,” added Lauren Wolfe, Counsel for Travelers United.
In November 2012 and April 2013, the Federal Trade Commission warned 35 hotels and 11 online travel agents that resort fees were not adequately disclosed on their hotel reservation websites and that such practices may violate the law by misrepresenting the price consumers expected to pay for their hotel rooms. In response to these warning letters, many hotels and online travel agents modified their resort fee disclosures. But consumer complaints about the disclosure of these rates continue.
Even more alarming, many hotels in Las Vegas have recently raised mandatory hotel fees as this bill was being created. Hotels are doubling down on their false advertising.
Include all mandatory hotel fees in all room rates
“If a fee is part of the total price consumers must pay for a hotel room, it must be part of the price shown to consumers. Surprise fees are unfair to consumers, period. I am grateful to Congresswoman Johnson for her leadership on this important issue,” said FTC Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter.
Charlie Leocha is the President of Travelers United. He has been working in Washington, DC, for the past ten years with Congress, the Department of Transportation and industry stakeholders on travel issues. He was the consumer representative to the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections appointed by the Secretary of Transportation from 2012 through 2018.