Ranking Member Garamendi Introduces Cruise Vessel Consumer Confidence Act of 2013
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), the Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, today introduced H.R. 3475, the Cruise Vessel Consumer Confidence Act of 2013. H.R. 3475 authorizes the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to provide oversight and to investigate deceptive practices and unfair competition relating to cruise vessel passenger travel. It also requires the cruise line industry to make disclosures, provide timely information to passengers, provide for the physical needs of passengers, and reimburse passengers that are delayed for more than 24 hours. Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento, CA) is an original cosponsor of the bill. Click here for the bill text and click here for a summary.
The Act was written after Ranking Member Garamendi and Committee staff reviewed the ways passengers on many recent cruises departing from the United States have received poor treatment and received minimal recourse following disruptive, lengthy, and sometimes preventable cruise malfunctions and delays. Passengers have regularly reported inadequate information and dangerous conditions and noted that basic physical needs are not being met.
“Reviewing the many horror stories from cruise ships in recent years, it is clear that proper oversight of the industry and consumer protections for passengers are desperately lacking. At times, it is the Wild West on the high seas,” Congressman Garamendi said. “As California’s former Insurance Commissioner, I know that consumer protection requires more than asking politely. Consumer protection requires tough and fair regulations that hold industries accountable and responsible. That’s why I introduced the Cruise Vessel Consumer Confidence Act.”
“I have long advocated for increased protections and greater disclosures for cruise ship passengers. The thousands of Americans who embark on cruise vacations every year deserve access to transparent and accurate information about incidents that occur on cruise ships,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “Earlier this year I introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act to build upon the security and safety measures aboard our cruise ships, and ensure that passengers can make an informed decision when considering a trip. Today’s bill is another piece of the puzzle in ensuring protections for cruise ship passengers.”
The bill grants authority to the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to investigate potential unfair or deceptive practices or unfair methods of competition relating to the sale of tickets for passenger travel on a cruise vessel. If the FMC determines that there has been a violation, there will be notice and an opportunity for a hearing. If the deceptive practice continues, the FMC may impose a maximum civil penalty of $25,000 per violation, with each additional day qualifying as a separate violation.
The bill also requires that operators and owners of cruise vessels disclose the following information prior to the sale of tickets for passenger travel:
- The name of the cruise vessel;
- The casualty history including all man overboard instances;
- A list of all complaints of crimes including incidents reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI);
- The number of gastric illness outbreaks;
- The number and length of delays;
- The country where the cruise vessel is flagged;
- Where civil and criminal legal proceedings will be held for incidents that occur outside of United States waters;
- A statement as to whether the ticket price includes all applicable taxes and fees;
- An estimate of all applicable taxes and fees;
- Any other material condition required by the FMC; and
- Instructions to passengers on how to file complaints with the FMC.
The bill also:
- Prohibits the practice of requiring printed tickets for passengers who purchase their ticket online;
- Provides for monetary reimbursement to passengers that are delayed from the initial departure or the final disembarking of a cruise vessel;
- Requires the owners and operators of cruise vessels to submit a plan with respect to customer service that is available online and included in all contracts with passengers; and
- Requires the FMC to establish a reporting method for cruise vessel passenger complaints.
“Transparency is the best disinfectant and accountability is the best cure. A lot of passengers already assume many of these commonsense protections already apply to their travels,” Congressman Garamendi added. “With this legislation, our goal is to prevent dream vacations from turning into nightmares.”
While he was California’s Insurance Commissioner, the Department developed a reputation as the best consumer protection agency in the nation, delivering billions of dollars in rebates and lower rates to California homeowners, insurance holders, and customers.
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