Consumer guide to general purpose reloadable cards – National Consumers League

General Purpose Reloadable prepaid cards (GPR) are the fastest growing payment method in the country. They are increasingly popular with consumers who can’t qualify for traditional credit or debit cards or for those who need a convenient way to help them stick to a budget, since the cards generally can’t be overdrawn. While GPR cards have similar uses and even look nearly identical to credit or debit cards, consumers should know that there are important differences in terms of fees and consumer protections.

 

This guide is designed to help consumers learn what makes GPR cards different from other types of plastic cards, about the fees associated with the cards, and understand their rights under the law.

What is a GPR card?
General purpose reloadable prepaid cards (GPR cards) are much like the debit cards that many consumers use. However, they are not linked to a traditional checking account. Consumers can use them to purchase retail items at stores or online, pay bills online, get cash from ATMs, and have paychecks directly deposited onto them. GPR cards can be purchased from retailers like drug stores, grocery stores or check-cashing outlets, bank branches, and online.

  • What is the difference between a GPR card and a bank account debit card?

    • A bank account debit card is linked to your bank’s checking account. GPR cards are not linked to a personal checking account.

    • Your bank account debit card may allow you to spend more than the amount that is in your account if you have opted in to an overdraft service. Prepaid debit cards do not let you spend more money than you have loaded on to a card.

  • What is the difference between a GPR card and a credit card?

    • When you use a GPR card, you are using your own money that you have already loaded on to the card. You can only spend as much money as you have pre-loaded.

    • When using a credit card, you are using borrowed money that you have to pay back at the end of each month (with interest, if you carry a balance). Credit card use is limited by the credit limit on the card.

  • What is the difference between a GPR card and a gift card?

    • GPR cards are reloadable, so when the money on the card is used up, you can add additional funds. Gift cards are often not reloadable.

    • GPR card users can withdraw cash from their cards at an ATM. Gift card holders cannot.

  • What is the difference between a GPR card and a payroll card?

    • A payroll card is an alternative to paper checks and to bank account direct deposits. Your employer can load your pay directly to a payroll card.

    • Payroll cards are provided by employers to their workers and are not typically marketed or purchasable by consumers. GPR cards are marketed to consumers and available for purchase by the general public.

For tips on how to choose the right GPR card for you, click here.

To learn more about your rights and what steps to take if your GPR card has been compromised, click here.

View this consumer guide in PDF format.

Postal banking, an idea whose time has come… again 

Brian YoungToday’s banking system is failing middle-class Americans. Around 8.4 million U.S. households do not have a bank account, and nearly one in five households are underbanked. One of the biggest complaints low-income consumers have is that the overdraft fees and penalties charged by big banks whittle away the meager funds in their bank accounts. Unfortunately, the problem is not likely to improve as many banks, despite generating massive profits, are increasing their fees, closing branches, and laying off workers. Compounding the harms identified above, since 2008, 93 percent of branch closures have occurred in neighborhoods with a median income below the national average, which—unsurprisingly—only worsens socioeconomic inequality.

In order to fill the void, predatory payday and auto title lenders have popped up across the country. These lenders charge outrageous check-cashing fees and interest rates of nearly 400 percent on average. With these predatory rates, if a consumer takes out a $500 loan at 391 percent interest, they will owe $575 just two weeks later. With 400 percent interest rates, it is perhaps not surprising that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found that four out of five consumers who take out these loans either default or renew their payday loan within a year, costing them even more in interest and fees. The CFPB also found that by the time consumers escape these loans, one out of five new payday loans end up costing the borrower more than the amount they originally borrowed.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to trapping consumers into inescapable cycles of debt: postal banking. Postal banking is not a new idea. Many countries, including France and the United Kingdom, already provide access to affordable loans and other financial services via their postal service. The postal sector has been found to be the second-largest contributor to financial inclusion worldwide; only the banking industry has more financial customers. In fact, few know that from 1911 to 1967, the United States Postal Service (USPS) operated a robust Postal Savings System that once controlled more than $3.4 billion in assets.  

Today, USPS no longer offers a savings program. That’s unfortunate, since 26.9 percent of American households are underserved by traditional banks, which means that their options are limited and that they are often forced into utilizing predatory financial services to cash their paychecks and make ends meet. Compounding the problem, many brick-and-mortar retail stores have embraced a new trend to refuse cash payments altogether. All of these developments underscore how having access to affordable and sustainable credit and digital payments is critically important.

The USPS is uniquely situated to provide relief to unbanked and underbanked Americas. Of its 30,000 locations, 59 percent are located in banking deserts, where there are either no banks or just one within an entire zip code. 

Empowering Americans to participate in commerce is something the USPS could start doing tomorrow without any action by Congress. A 2014 Office of the Inspector report found that the USPS could, with current regulatory authority, offer a suite of financial products that would help underserved Americans collectively save billions of dollars a year from predatory fees, promote savings, and increase customer participation in e-commerce. It’s also a savvy business, in our view, for USPS to use its existing infrastructure to expand its current line of products and in so doing, boost its bottom line. 

Indeed, a broad coalition of labor, public interest, and faith groups agree and are encouraging USPS to offer vital financial products that Americans need to climb the economic ladder. In the days and months ahead, NCL is looking forward to joining the postal banking movement and working to provide consumers with a public banking option.

Fraud on Venmo threatens consumer trust in the emerging P2P payments space – National Consumers League

Fraud in the peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfer space is an all-too-common occurrence and is growing by leaps and bounds. One of the biggest players in the P2P space is Venmo, which is owned by PayPal. Last quarter, the company reported $17 billion in transactions on Venmo, an increase of 78 percent over the same period last year.Unfortunately, wherever money is exchanged, fraudsters will try to find ways to lure consumers into faux deals and fake transactions, particularly when new and potentially unfamiliar technologies are used to make payments. At NCL’s Fraud.org, we hear from thousands of consumers who have either fallen victim to fraud or want advice about avoiding it.

Venmo is no exception to this rule. PayPal reported a spike in fraud on Venmo earlier this year, leading to wider-than-expected operating losses. As TheStreet.com reported this week, many PayPal investors are bullish on Venmo’s potential for monetization but were taken aback by reports that Venmo’s “transaction loss rate”, an internal metric that includes fraud-related losses, rose from 0.25 percent to 0.40 percent of overall Venmo volume between January and March. This was one of the factors that played a part in Venmo’s operating loss of $40 million during the first quarter, according to The Wall Street Journal. Why the spike in early 2018? That is hard to know.

To their credit, as loss patterns emerged, the Venmo team quickly “updated the new features to prevent losses and protect customers,” said Amanda Miller, a PayPal spokesperson. “With the new instant transfer feature, that meant suspending the new feature for a few days and then reintroducing it. Suspending that feature temporarily was the right thing to protect customers.” Venmo also raised fees from a small flat fee to a percentage-based fee.

We hope these changes will help but what have consumers lost in the process?  Scammers have been long abusing P2P services, including Venmo, with scams ranging from reversing payments for goods purchased to using stolen credit cards or hacked accounts to make Venmo transactions. 

But is that enough? And will consumers be left holding the bag when they get caught in fraudulent payment schemes? That’s a question that PayPal and Venmo must answer. It is widely expected that P2P payment systems like Venmo will continue to grow exponentially in the coming years. To maintain consumer trust, they must do all they can to protect consumers from the inevitable scams and frauds that will continue to pop up and harm consumers. If P2P companies like Venmo can’t get fraud under control on their own, it may soon be time for Congress to step in a consider requiring zero-liability regulations such as those that protect users of debit or credit cards.

BlackRock: Promoting shareholder activism – National Consumers League

By NCL Public Policy intern Melissa Cuddington

Many consumers think of money management companies, such as BlackRock Inc., Vanguard Group, and State Street Corp., to be solely interested in the finance market and ways to strengthen their investment portfolios. Turns out this isn’t entirely the case. 

The recent action of Laurence Fink, CEO of BlackRock Inc., calling on shareholders to better articulate long-term plans and spell out how their organizations can contribute to society in a positive manner, is a stellar example of a company promoting shareholder activism.

According to a Wall Street Journal article from earlier this year, Fink stated that BlackRock Inc. plans toover the next three yearsdouble the size of the team that engages with other companies regarding their societal impact. Fink also states that this team will be investigating corporate strategies that can be used when collaborating with investors and shareholders.

Fink states in his annual letter that investors must “understand the societal impact of your business, as well as the ways that broad structural trends—from slow wage growth to rising automation to climate change—affect your potential for growth.”

This statement by Fink caught NCL’s eye as a positive and productive move on the part of the finance industry. It is crucial that money management companies understand their societal impact and ways in which their investments affect structural trends—such as climate change and unemployment. We hope to see other money management companies follow suit.

DC City Council should protect consumers from deceptive automatically renewing subscriptions – National Consumers League

Brian YoungThe scenario is all too familiar to thousands of District residents: while looking over a credit card bill, you notice a mysterious charge from a company or service you vaguely remember doing business with a year ago. Why do you keep getting charged for a cleaning service you only used once? If this sounds familiar, chances are that you are the unwitting victim of an automatic renewal clause.

These sneaky clauses typically state that unless you notify the company, your contract will automatically renew at the end of the term. Unsurprisingly, many companies love these clauses as it provides them with guaranteed income. Since consumers are often forced to go through the arduous process to cancel their subscriptions, even consumers who want out of these contracts can find it difficult to extricate themselves.

Not all automatic renewal contracts are wrong, however. For example, I am grateful that I do not have to write a check or pay an online bill each month just to keep using Netflix. However, many companies slip these automatic renewal clauses into the fine print and consumers do not know they have to cancel by a certain date (often as much as 3 months prior to the contract’s end date) to avoid being stuck with another year of service. This leaves consumers and businesses alike saddled with expensive contracts they have no desire to utilize and have no ability to cancel.

Fortunately, 22 states have laws on the books which require that automatic renewal clauses not be buried in pages of fine print. While the District does not yet have this consumer protection, Councilmembers Mary Cheh, David Grosso, and Anita Bonds recently introduced the Consumer Disclosure Act of 2017 which is currently pending before the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety. This legislation would empower consumers by requiring businesses to provide notice to consumers if their contract is set to renew for a multi-month term. This reminder will need to include clear instructions on how and when consumers must cancel to prevent an automatic renewal of a contract.

The Consumer Disclosure Act of 2017 would not only protect consumers from unscrupulous business practices, but it would also help the District’s businesses and employers. For instance, my employer — the National Consumers League — recently found out that we were on the hook for a contract which automatically renewed for the year at the tune of $23,000. We were responsible for this large sum merely because we failed to provide a written notice of our intention to cancel the contract more than 90 days prior to the contract’s end. The person originally arranging for this service was no longer on staff and management wasn’t aware of the contract’s automatic renewal provisions. Had the Consumer Disclosure Act been law, not only would we have known before signing the contract that there was an automatic renewal clause, we would have received a notice prior to the contract’s 90-day cancellation window reminding us that we need to make a decision to cancel or renegotiate the contract.

Research suggests that the consumers has around 11 recurring charges. To help deal with this headache and avoid expensive surprises, we urge the DC Council to act quickly on this bill and begin giving residents in DC the protections from automatic renewal abuses that citizens in other states already enjoy.

Hurricane Harvey charity scams warning – National Consumers League

92_donate.jpgWith heartbreaking images of the recent devastation in Houston, many consumers in the United States and around the world are reaching for their wallets to help. The inclination to send donations is generous and kind, but advocates know that con artists have long exploited natural disasters, and consumers must be careful in order to avoid sending money to scammers who pose as charities.

In the days following a natural disaster, our Fraud.org staff often hear from consumers about crooks’ attempts to take advantage of tragic events for their personal gain. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, we received reports of a variety of scams tailored by con artists to capitalize on the rescue efforts. Scams typically involve con artists sending out emails purporting to come from a known and respected charity such as the Red Cross or Oxfam International. Victims are then directed to a fake Web site made to look like a legitimate charity’s site, where they are asked to share personal information or donate via wire transfer, PayPal, or a bank account. The scammer then makes off with the donation, and no real funds are sent to support actual disaster relief.

“The continued tragedy of fraud perpetrated in the wake of such disasters is that charity scams not only rob the donors,” said John Breyault, NCL vice president for public policy on telecommunications and fraud. “They also divert contributions from legitimate charities, who are in great need for money and goods to assist those who need it most.”

Fraudulent charities use natural disasters like the one in Houston to trick people who want to aid the victims. If you’re not sure whether a charity is legitimate, follow this advice:

  • If you’re approached by an unfamiliar charity, check it out. Most states require charities to register with them and file annual reports showing how they use donations. Ask your state or local consumer protection agency how to get this information. The Better Business Bureau Wise (BBB) Giving Alliance also offers information about national charities. Call (703) 276-0100 or go to Give.org.

  • Ask for written information. Legitimate charities will be happy to provide details about what they do and will never insist that you act immediately.

  • Beware of sound-alikes. Some crooks try to fool people by using names that are very similar to those of legitimate, well-known charities.

  • Ask about the caller’s relation to the charity. The caller may be a professional fundraiser, not an employee or a volunteer. Ask what percentage of donations goes to the charity and how much the fundraiser gets.

  • Be wary of requests to support police or firefighters. Some fraudulent fundraisers claim that donations will benefit police or firefighters, when in fact little or no money goes to them. Contact your local police or fire department to find out if the claims are true and what percentage of donations, if any, they will receive.

As consumers cry for more fuel-efficient vehicles, carmakers go the opposite direction – National Consumers League

fuel_efficiency.jpgWritten by NCL Intern Trang Nguyen

In March 2017, after a meeting with automakers in Detroit, President Trump began the process of rolling back a set of 2012 automotive emission standards, which were set to raise the fuel efficiency of new cars from 27.5 to 54.4 miles per gallon (MPG) by 2025. This goal would have reduced greenhouse gas emission by 6 billion tons over the lifetime of a new car and saved 2 million gallons of oil per day.

U.S. automakers claim that the emission goals of the future will increase car prices and lower sales. However, multiple reports and surveys have found that consumers want and expect to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) reported recently that SUVs, crossovers, and pickups whose MPGs increased by over 10 percent between 2011 and 2016 had a 59 percent increase in sales. Vehicles whose MPGs increased by less than 10 percent only experienced a 41 percent growth. Though the sales for both types have increased, it is clear that consumers want to buy vehicles with far greater fuel efficiency.

A survey by Consumer Reports shows that 53 percent of all American vehicle owners want better fuel economy with the next car they purchase. Eighty-four percent of American adults feel that automakers should continue to improve fuel economy for all types of vehicles, while 75 percent think the government should continue to require automakers to improve fuel economy, and 70 percent think standards for fuel efficiency should be higher. And 60 percent are willing to pay extra for more fuel-efficient vehicles, which can recover the additional cost within 5 years. 

All the numbers point to one undeniable conclusion: Consumers want more fuel-efficient cars. For companies to lobby for reversals on their agreed-upon fuel efficiency goals goes against the wishes of their own customers. Indeed, automakers are already achieving these goals with improved technologies. According to the EPA, there are already more than 100 car and SUV models that meet standards stretching beyond 2020, and some already meeting the 2025 standards. And nearly half of the 2017 vehicle models are actually cheaper for their initial costs (and fuel cost in five years) compared to their 2011 models

CFA rightly argues that U.S. car manufacturers are asking for trouble – as they did in 2009 – when the government had to bail out these companies because of the large number of fuel-inefficient cars they could not sell. Lowering the MPGs standard will spell trouble once again for American car companies as it puts them at a disadvantage compared to their Asian and European counterparts, which will continue to improve the fuel efficiency of their products pursuant to international consumer demand, regardless of how the U.S. rollback turns out.

NCL offers American automakers some advice: do not repeat your mistakes. Listen to the wishes of consumers. Consumers want better, more fuel-efficient cars. Rolling back the fuel-efficiency standards is bad policy: bad for the environment, bad for consumers, bad for the economy, and bad for business!

U.S. airline consolidation no good for consumers – National Consumers League

airplane_92.jpgWritten by NCL Intern Trang Nguyen

The American airlines industry is a lucrative one. Despite complaints about airlines’ constant delays, fees on everything from baggage, cancellation, seats, food, and blankets, to United Airline’s violent removal of Dr. David Dao this spring, the industry brought in $13.5 billion in profit in 2016. 

Consumers are also being charged excessive airfares, compared with European airlines’ patrons. In fact, The Economist magazine estimated that U.S. airlines’ profit per customer is nearly triple that of their European counterparts. In America, domestic airfares rose faster than inflation.

Over the past decade, consolidation has reduced the number of large airlines from nine to four – American, United, Delta, and Southwest – which control more than 80 percent of the U.S. market. Ninety-three out of 100 of the largest airports in America are dominated by one or two airlines, with 40 of them controlled by one. And airlines are trying to maximize their opportunities for monopoly over airports. For example, United Airline announced in June 2015 that it would move its shrinking number of flights from New York’s Kennedy Airport to New Jersey’s Newark airport, where it controlled 68 percent of the seats. Meanwhile, Delta would replace United to increase its dominance at JFK and pull out from Newark. We are pleased that the move was blocked by the Department of Justice, but more needs to be done.

Not only are airlines working to monopolize airports, they are also obstructing smaller discount airlines’ access to routes. For instance, Delta entered a 40-year-plus contract with Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) that gave the airline the final say on much of the airport’s expenditures. The lack of competition at CVG worked to the detriment of travelers; it limited their travel options and forced them to pay monopoly prices, which were ranked the highest in the United States for years. After the contract expired in 2015, Delta finally loosened its grip on the airport when the airline signed a new 5-year contract that allowed CVG more control over its funding and incentive packages. Since then, CVG has seen an influx of low-cost airlines, including Frontier, Allegiant, and Southwest. Thanks to new competitions, ticket prices at CVG have dropped $170 per passenger in the last two years.

Still, consumers need better protections from airline monopoly. U.S. airlines are continuing to limit competition by lobbying to restrict international airlines like Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar and slowing down the approval process for low-cost airlines like Norwegian, despite the Open Skies agreements that limit government interference in commercial airlines’ decisions on routes, capacity, and pricing. When competition is limited, airlines are free to keep airfares sky-high while cutting service and quality, shrinking seat spaces, overbooking, and charging for carry-on luggage. Consumers are forced to travel farther for affordable airfares, as fliers near Reagan National Airport (DCA) and Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) testify. The competition driven by 14 domestic airlines at Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) (compared with nine and eight at DCA and IAD, respectively), lowers airfares at BWI and allows the airport to attract customers from a far larger geographic area. 

Diversity of airlines also protects airports and residents of a region from being affected dramatically should an airline face financial problems. This happened to the Delta-Northwest dominated CVG when the airline cut more than half of its flights and 840 airport jobs. The elimination of direct flights to London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Rome devastated the community as businesses with European headquarters left the city. The region lost thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars annually as a result.

With the increased global nature of business, Americans are flying more often than ever. As a result, keeping airline travel affordable and accessible is increasingly important. It goes without saying that the airline industry has a major effect on the lives of its customers. Introducing real competition and breaking up oligopolies or monopolies at airports is good for business and good for consumers. This is one reason why NCL supports the DOT’s Airline Passenger Rights and urges Congress to enact protections that will stimulate competition, require better airline service, and make air travel more affordable.

CareFirst lawsuit victory – National Consumers League

gavel_icon.jpgWritten by NCL Intern Trang Nguyen

We recently celebrated a legal victory—NCL filed the only amicus curiae brief in the case—that recognized harm to consumers whose health plans’ websites are hacked and personal information is stolen because the plan failed to provide adequate security measures to protect its insurees’ data.

The class action suit was brought in the U.S. District Court of District of Columbia involving CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. The plaintiffs alleged that the company’s negligence allowed hackers to access 1.1 million customers’ personal information. The incident happened in June 2014, when an unknown intruder hacked 22 CareFirst computers and reached the database containing its customers’ personal information. The company only discovered the breach after 11 months and finally notified its customers in May 2015. Chantal Attias and six other plaintiffs, on behalf of CareFirst’s customers, sued the company for the negligence that exposed the plaintiffs to substantially heightened risk of identity theft. U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper dismissed the case, holding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to proceed by failing to claim how they have suffered substantial risk or impending injury fairly traceable to the actions of the defendant. 

In a decision handed down last week, DC Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Court Judge Thomas B. Griffith reversed the lower court’s decision, ordering that the plaintiff had demonstrated substantial risk of future harm stemming from the breach. As CareFirst collects and stores its customers’ personal identification information, personal health information and other sensitive information, including patient credit card and Social Security numbers, the cyberattack in 2014 exposed a great deal of the information to wrongdoers, allowing them to appropriate a victim’s identity. CareFirst claimed that hackers could only access customers’ names, dates of birth, email address, and subscriber identification—not Social Security numbers or credit card information. Judge Griffith granted that, even if such was the case, the compromised information was enough to increase the risk of identity theft, which can cause “victims to receive improper medical care, have their insurance depleted, become ineligible for health or life insurance, or become disqualified from some jobs.”

Judge Griffith agreed that, while the hackers were the immediate cause of plaintiff’s injuries, CareFirst’s failure to properly secure customers’ data contributed to the breach, and thereby subjected them to a substantial risk of identity theft. Therefore, under the standards of Article III, the plaintiffs’ injury was in fact fairly traceable to CareFirst.

Finally, the court recognized that since the plaintiffs would have to expend a large amount of money to mitigate and protect themselves from the substantial risk of identity theft, they are justified in demanding monetary damages.

Hotels holding consumers hostage with increasingly unfriendly cancellation policies – National Consumers League

hotel_fees_icon.jpgWritten by NCL Intern Trang Nguyen

Hotels used to let customers cancel their reservations up to 6pm on the day of arrival. This was the accepted norm for more than a decade. But this policy, which allowed flexibility for travelers, took a blow in 2015 when two big hotel chains, Marriott and Hilton, put into effect a penalty for last-minute cancellations. According to the new rule, cancellations later than 24 hours before the scheduled arrival date would result in a fee of one night’s room rate. There is no umbrella rule for cancellation fees for the hotel industry, which allows hotels to arbitrarily determine the cost. Depending on the destination and star-ratings, hotels are known to have charged up to three-night rates for resorts—or even allow no refund at all for the entire reservation.

Now, Marriott has announced a terribly anti-consumer policy: a three-day cancellation fee. In other words, if a consumer’s plans change within three days of travel, they get slammed with paying a full overnight stay—even if the hotel is able to re-rent the room and recoup all the money it would have lost from an empty room. Cancellation fees are punitive for both businesses and tourists. In 2014, the hotel industry collected $2.25 billion in fees and surcharges. These fees include in-room wifi, “resort fees,” and cancellation fees.

We did a little research and found some interesting information. The cancellation rates for online travel agencies (OTAs) (like Orbitz, Expedia, etc.) are significantly higher than those of reservations made directly to brand websites (i.e., Hilton.com or Marriott.com). The cancellation rate from brand websites hovers at 19 percent, while the rate for popular OTAs run from 25 percent (Expedia) to 39 percent (Booking). A possible explanation for the difference may be that customers who book directly through brand website are more likely to be loyal customers, who are set to travel according to the planned booking. Bookings through OTAs can be more whimsical. OTAs send rigorous marketing campaigns to their subscribers, urging them to make reservations for limited, discounted offers even if they have no existing need to travel. Since OTAs often have flexible, free cancellation, and no booking fees, many subscribers end up making the reservation and cancel them later.

We think this new rule ought to be illegal because hotels can double dip, just like the airlines are currently allowed to do. We think fair is fair. If the customer cancels a booking and the hotel is able to re-rent the room, the hotel should be required to refund the customer’s payment. We ask Marriott executives: is it really fair for hotels to punish customers who might have to cancel their reservation because of an emergency or a change in the location of a business meeting or family event when you’ve been able to re-rent the room? Or is this just another way to gouge consumers whose plans change (often through no fault of their own)?

Hotels can also mitigate this problem by measuring the cancellation rate for each channel they distribute to, and giving lower quota and higher rates to sites with high cancelation rates. They can offer different payment options to discourage arbitrary booking behaviors or send reminders to fickle customers to reduce risk of last-minute cancellations. Hotels can also up their last-minute reservation game by investing and giving special deals on their mobile apps. Right now, OTA mobile apps dominate the industry when it comes to last-minute booking, with 70 percent of the market. If hotels can tap into that segment through their own apps, it could surely relieve them of higher commission to the OTAs.

Clearly, limiting the main source of cancellation, not upsetting loyal customers, and attracting more last-minute reservations through direct booking would be a win-win for hotel chains and consumers. And refunding canceling customers for a room that is ultimately is rebooked is only fair.