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Are Third-Party Hotel Booking Sites Ripping You Off?


The Stop Online Booking Scams Act of 2016 has been introduced in the Senate and the hotel industry is celebrating, says Christopher Elliott for The Washington Post. But Elliott questions whether these sites are really ripping off consumers and points out that the lodging industry may just be missing the point of what the problems are that consumers really have with hotel and resort bookings. 

“I haven’t received any recent complaints about fraudulent third-party bookings, and neither have any other advocates I know. But it’s no secret that hotels want to capture more market share through direct bookings,” writes Elliott, who goes on to point out that there are really more pressing issues within the lodging experience. 

“Even Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy organization based in Santa Monica, Calif., and one of the only consumer groups to support the Stop Online Booking Scams Act, says other issues are more important to hotel guests,” he writes. 

Consumer Watchdog’s John Simpson tells Elliott: “I’d like to see something that does away with these outrageous resort fees,” says John Simpson, the group’s privacy project director. “For consumers, that’s a much more important issue.”

In fact, resort fees are one of the biggest issues concerning travelers. 

“Mandatory resort fees, which normally cover amenities that were previously included in the prices of hotel rooms, such as the use of an exercise facility or business center, have been a long-standing irritant for hotel guests,” Elliott notes. 

He even says that since the beginning of the year, the number of resorts charging a resort fee more than $30 has gone from 142 to 172.

If you think that’s outrageous, know that you are not alone. 

“The Truth in Hotel Advertising Act of 2016, introduced earlier this year by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), would prohibit hotels from advertising room rates that don’t include all mandatory fees,” Elliott says. 

That however still leaves out ancillary fees.

“Bills that would kill resort fees, force properties to disclose all their fees upfront or offer no-questions-asked refunds within 24 hours of making a reservation are unlikely to sail through Congress, as they would cost the hotel industry real money. And so we have the Stop Online Booking Scams Act,” writes Elliott. 

Read on for more detail on how Congress might transform the lodging industry here.