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H.R. 3956: Stop Online Booking Scams Act of 2019

The text of the bill below is as of Jul 24, 2019 (Introduced).


I

116th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 3956

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

July 24, 2019

(for himself, Mr. Bilirakis, and Ms. Frankel) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce

A BILL

To protect consumers from deceptive practices with respect to online booking of hotel reservations, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Stop Online Booking Scams Act of 2019.

2.

Definitions

In this Act:

(1)

Affiliation contract

The term affiliation contract means, with respect to a hotel, a contract with the owner of the hotel, the entity that manages the hotel, or the franchisor of the hotel to provide online hotel reservation services for the hotel.

(2)

Commission

The term Commission means the Federal Trade Commission.

(3)

Exhibition organizer or meeting planner

The term exhibition organizer or meeting planner means the person responsible for all aspects of planning, promoting, and producing a meeting, conference, event, or exhibition, including overseeing and arranging all hotel reservation plans and contracts for the meeting, conference, event, or exhibition.

(4)

Official housing bureau

The term official housing bureau means the organization designated by an exhibition organizer or meeting planner to provide hotel reservation services for meetings, conferences, events, or exhibitions.

(5)

Party directly affiliated

The term party directly affiliated means, with respect to a hotel, a person who has entered into an affiliation contract with the hotel.

(6)

Third party online hotel reservation seller

The term third party online hotel reservation seller means any person that—

(A)

sells any good or service with respect to a hotel in a transaction effected on the internet; and

(B)

is not—

(i)

a party directly affiliated with the hotel; or

(ii)

an exhibition organizer or meeting planner or the official housing bureau for a meeting, conference, event, or exhibition held at the hotel.

3.

Requirements for third party online hotel reservation sellers

(a)

Requirement

It shall be unlawful for a third party online hotel reservation seller to advertise, market, or promote the sale of a hotel room reservation or charge or attempt to charge any consumer's credit card, debit card, bank account, or other financial account for any good or service sold in a transaction effected on the internet, if the third party online hotel reservation seller states or implies that it is, or is affiliated with, the person who owns the hotel or provides the hotel services or accommodations.

(b)

Enforcement by Commission

(1)

Unfair or deceptive acts or practices

A violation of subsection (a) by a person subject to such subsection shall be treated as a violation of a rule defining an unfair or deceptive act or practice prescribed under section 18(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 57a(a)(1)(B)).

(2)

Powers of Commission

(A)

In general

The Commission shall enforce this section in the same manner, by the same means, and with the same jurisdiction, powers, and duties as though all applicable terms and provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 41 et seq.) were incorporated into and made a part of this Act.

(B)

Privileges and immunities

Any person who violates this section shall be subject to the penalties and entitled to the privileges and immunities provided in the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 41 et seq.).

(C)

Rulemaking

(i)

In general

The Commission may promulgate such rules as the Commission considers appropriate to enforce this section.

(ii)

Procedures

The Commission shall carry out any rulemaking under clause (i) in accordance with section 553 of title 5, United States Code.

(c)

Enforcement by States

(1)

In general

In any case in which the attorney general of a State has reason to believe that an interest of the residents of the State has been or is being threatened or adversely affected by the engagement of any person subject to subsection (a) in a practice that violates such subsection, the attorney general of the State may, as parens patriae, bring a civil action on behalf of the residents of the State in an appropriate district court of the United States to obtain appropriate relief.

(2)

Rights of federal trade commission

(A)

Notice to federal trade commission

(i)

In general

Except as provided in clause (iii), the attorney general of a State shall notify the Commission in writing that the attorney general intends to bring a civil action under paragraph (1) before initiating any civil action against a person subject to subsection (a).

(ii)

Contents

The notification required under clause (i) with respect to a civil action shall include a copy of the complaint to be filed to initiate the civil action.

(iii)

Exception

If it is not feasible for the attorney general of a State to provide the notification required by clause (i) before initiating a civil action under paragraph (1), the attorney general shall notify the Commission immediately upon instituting the civil action.

(B)

Intervention by federal trade commission

The Commission may—

(i)

intervene in any civil action brought by the attorney general of a State under paragraph (1); and

(ii)

upon intervening—

(I)

be heard on all matters arising in the civil action; and

(II)

file petitions for appeal of a decision in the civil action.

(3)

Investigatory powers

Nothing in this subsection may be construed to prevent the attorney general of a State from exercising the powers conferred on the attorney general by the laws of the State—

(A)

to conduct investigations;

(B)

to administer oaths or affirmations; or

(C)

to compel the attendance of witnesses or the production of documentary or other evidence.

(4)

State coordination with federal trade commission

If the Commission institutes a civil action or an administrative action with respect to a violation of subsection (a), the attorney general of a State shall coordinate with the Commission before bringing a civil action under paragraph (1) against any defendant named in the complaint of the Commission for the violation with respect to which the Commission instituted such action.

(5)

Venue; service of process

(A)

Venue

Any action brought under paragraph (1) may be brought in—

(i)

the district court of the United States that meets applicable requirements relating to venue under section 1391 of title 28, United States Code; or

(ii)

another court of competent jurisdiction.

(B)

Service of process

In an action brought under paragraph (1), process may be served in any district in which the defendant—

(i)

is an inhabitant; or

(ii)

may be found.

(6)

Actions by other state officials

(A)

In general

In addition to civil actions brought by attorneys general under paragraph (1), any other officer of a State who is authorized by the State to do so may bring a civil action under paragraph (1), subject to the same requirements and limitations that apply under this subsection to civil actions brought by attorneys general.

(B)

Savings provision

Nothing in this subsection may be construed to prohibit an authorized official of a State from initiating or continuing any proceeding in a court of the State for a violation of any civil or criminal law of the State.