Grassley urges FTC to look into potentially deceptive online hotel booking practices

Grassley-090507-18363- 0032From Press Release


Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa is asking the Federal Trade Commission to scrutinize the tactics of disreputable third-party online hotel reservation services. Recent news reports have highlighted possible abuses and the impact they have on consumers.  For example, these services use questionable practices that lead people to believe that they are booking rooms directly with their hotel of choice. As a result, consumers may have paid more for hotel rooms or did not receive amenities or necessities they requested.

“Families work hard so they can go on relaxing trips during the summer travel season.  Being duped by illegitimate third-party online booking services is no way to start a vacation, and consumers may end up exposed to unnecessary risks or challenges. These services appear to go out of their way to pose as major hotels, even using similar branding and marketing, in an effort to confuse and mislead consumers.  Americans should have as many choices as possible when making their travel plans.  However, they should not be misled about who they are dealing with or what they are buying. The FTC should look into these shady practices and if laws are violated or consumers are harmed, these companies should be held accountable,” Grassley said.

News reports revealed that illegitimate third-party services can charge hidden booking fees that push the price of a hotel room beyond what the actual hotel would charge.  These services may also eliminate opportunities to change or cancel a reservation, which many hotels offer.  Individuals may request certain accommodations, such as a wheelchair accessible room, only to learn upon arrival that the hotel never received the request. Further, these dubious third-party online services may not have appropriate network safeguards to protect payment information collected from consumers.

A signed copy of Grassley’s letter to the FTC can be found here.