Meeting Mentor Magazine

September 2018

Judge Fines “Rooms Poacher” $750,000

A collective cheer went up from various corners of the meetings industry in early March when it was announced that a federal judge in Georgia had leveled a hefty fine against a travel agency for posing as an official convention housing bureau.

The judge found Tarzango, LLC, guilty of trademark infringement and deceptive practices and awarded $750,000 in damages plus attorneys’ fees to the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association (USPoultry).

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The association partners with the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) to produce the annual International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE). USPoultry sued Tarzango for sending unsolicited emails last year to IPPE exhibitors and attendees — emails that used the association’s name and logo. It’s not uncommon for attendees and exhibitors to be solicited by unaffiliated travel agencies and housing agents, but it is deceptive for such agents to pose as official representatives.

“We, with the full support of our partners AFIA and NAMI, asserted our rights and have protected attendees and exhibitors from Tarzango’s unfair and deceptive practices. This decision should serve as a strong warning to those service providers who seek to trade off of the strong goodwill developed in IPPE,” USPoultry President John Starkey said in a statement.

“Room pirating” scams are estimated to affect more than 15 million bookings per year, resulting in more than $1.3 billion in losses for hotels and for unsuspecting consumers, in addition to potential legal or attrition fees and reduced concessions for event planners and owners, according to the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE).

“We are pleased to see this judgment brought forth for USPoultry,” said IAEE President and CEO David DuBois. “This is an ongoing and prolific issue that affects event organizers and consumers in every state.”

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He added that this is one of the main issues that the association sought to bring to the attention of legislators last year at Exhibitions Day in Washington, D.C. Participants in the event met with legislators and staff to advocate for the passage of the Stop Online Booking Scams Act. Versions of this bill were introduced in the House and Senate last year. No congressional action has been taken on the legislation to date, however. 
— Regina McGee

 

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