There were $5.7 billion in fraudulent and misleading hotel reservations made through online third-party travel agencies in 2018, according to a study from the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

CERTAIN THIRD-PARTY travel agencies were misleading in their telephone and online booking, said 23 percent of consumers surveyed for a study by the American Hotel and Lodging Association. The questionable communications resulted in $5.7 billion in fraudulent and misleading hotel bookings in 2018, the study found.

AHLA’s study also found that one in four consumers had problems with their reservations and 40 percent said they were unhappy to learn that, despite comparison shopping among numerous OTAs, most prices were actually set by Expedia and Priceline, which control 95 percent of the online travel market, according to AHLA.

“Consumers are being robbed of billions of dollars every year by bad actors,” said Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO. “In addition to third-party websites that mimic hotel websites and call centers, but are not actually affiliated with a hotel, costing consumers time and money, this new research shows just how big of a problem deceptive advertising is on some online travel agency websites.”

Most respondents to the study, 94 percent, said they should know who they are doing business with when booking a hotel room online, and 77 percent want the government to prioritize and enforce consumer protection laws against third party hotel resellers. Booking scams also were among the topics AAHOA members discussed with legislators during that group’s legislative summit in Washington, D.C., in September.

AHLA has launched its Search Smarter campaign to educate consumers on best ways to book online.

“We recommend consumers look before they book, take advantage of loyalty programs and book directly with the hotel or a trusted travel agent,” Rogers said.