Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., introduced bipartisan legislation cracking down on deceptive advertising practices in the short-term lodging industry, according to Johnson’s office.
H.R. 4489, the Hotel Advertising Transparency Act of 2019, would ensure that consumers are shown the full pre-tax price of a hotel room while searching and comparing lodging options for their next trip.
“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 Johnson. “It is projected that in 2019, over $3 billion in revenue alone will be collected from consumers due to these hidden fees. Consumers should be able to enjoy their vacation without being ripped off and financially burdened. This bill would require that the prices advertised by hotels and online travel agencies must include all mandatory fees that will be charged to a consumer, excluding taxes.”
“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 Fortenberry.
The Hotel Advertising Transparency Act of 2019 would prohibit hotels and other places of short-term lodging from advertising a rate for a room that does not include all required fees other than taxes and fees imposed by a government. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), along with attorney generals from across the country, would have the ability to enforce this provision through the Federal Trade Commission Act.
In July, attorney generals for the District of Columbia and the state of Nebraska filed lawsuits against Marriott International and Hilton Worldwide, respectively, for hiding the true price of hotel rooms from consumers and charging hidden resort fees to increase profits.
“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 Johnson.
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.
“If a fee is part of the total price consumers must pay for a hotel room, then 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.