Marriott Plans To Go To Trial To Defend Resort Fees, And D.C. Is Looking For Customers To Testify

Several state attorneys general were investigating hotel resort fees as a deceptive practice. That process has gone nowhere. Two years ago Washington, D.C. broke ranks and sued Marriott while several months later Nebraska sued Hilton. For those who thought they should hold back and wait on states to move forward together, since those suits were filed nothing happened with the consortium of states.

Hotel chains advertise prices that don’t include resort fees. The headline rate is what consumers compare when they’re searching. It’s only when they go to book that they see the price is higher than what was presented to them. That makes comparing prices difficult. And it puts hotels that are transparent, advertising the full cost of a stay, at a disadvantage.

Resort fees are unquestionably disingenuous, a mandatory fee to stay at a hotel is also called ‘the price’ and there’s no valid reason for separating it out. Marriott even charges these fees on so-called free night awards earned as rewards in the Bonvoy program, a tax on loyalty to the chain.

Certainly, at a minimum, it’s deceptive to lump resort fees in with taxes:

D.C. is looking for consumers who are residents of the District and have stayed at Marriott hotels as witnesses that they’ve been deceived, perhaps would have chosen a different hotel had they known the full cost of their stay in advance:

RESPONSE REQUESTED: D.C.’s Legal Complaint w/ Marriott International Inc.

Hello,

You are being contacted because records show that you steayed at a Marriott hotel or a Marriott subsidiary hotel (“Marriott”) in the past 10 years and that during this time you were also a resident of the District of Columbia (the “District”). If this is accurate, the D.C. Office of the Attorney General would like to ask you a few brief questions in connection with your stay with Marriott.

WHAT’S THIS ABOUT?

The District has pending litigation against Marriott, alleging their resort fee practice violated the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act. The District’s case argues that Marriott’s ongoing resort fee practice began around 2010. Since then, Marriott has failed to disclose mandatory resort fees in the initial room rate and in doing so has deceived consumers into believing their prices are more competitive than they really are. Marriott denies all allegations and is electing to go to trial.

A copy of the District’s complaint detailing our allegations is HERE.

NEXT STEPS

We are now in search of consumers to come forward about their booking experience. Consumers that come forward may potentially testify in court.

To participate in this action or request additional information (do not respond to this email) please contact investigator Willie Haynes at on or before March 8, 2021.

Your cooperation is imperative in ending this alleged deceptive practice.

Thank you,

Public Advocacy Division
The Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia

*Please disregard this email if you received a similar message last week from AAG Christopher Pascual and already responded.


JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort Charges Resort Fees

Marriott, for its part, shares just how well-disclosed resort fees are:

The hotel chain’s former CEO says resort fees are good for you, they add so much value of course that consumers can’t be given the option to purchase the add-ons, the charges have to be made mandatory yet hidden outside the room rate.

Meanwhile there’s also a class action lawsuit against Marriott over resort fees that may ride on the coattails of this investigation.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Go D.C. authorities! These scam charges are dishonest and as you point out, overtly discriminate against anyone who wants to be transparent about what they charge. I have never knowingly stayed at a place with these fraudulent charges and never intend to. If they will lie about their price, why should I trust them on anything? It should be against the law to exclude from a price anything but government imposed taxes, period.

  2. Travel websites need to prominently display a note that reads something like “This hotel charges a resort fee that is not disclosed until check-in.”

  3. I don’t stay at places with resort fees either, but now I almost wish I had. I’d love to go to court against this despicable practice.

  4. These fees are theft, plain and simple. There is no ethical or moral case for charging them other than to rip off consumers to get a tax advantage and favorable treatment under management agreements. I hope that Marriott faces the maximal penalty for this consumer and governmental rape.

  5. If only the Nevada authorities would ban resort fees as that is common practice in Las Vegas and vicinity.

  6. ” add so much value of course that consumers can’t be given the option to purchase the add-ons, the charges have to be made mandatory” = proves that it is not that much value if a person is forced against their free will to pay it.
    “hidden outside the room rate.” Any fee that is hidden is unethical, dishonest, and is a reflection of a business’s attempt to rip off their customer. If they were honest they would disclose this upfront: Room Rate + Resort Fee upfront – not at the end!!!

  7. I don’t get it, I’ve never been surprised by a Marriott resort fee. It tells you the price before you confirm and you can check a box during the search to show prices that include all taxes and fees.

  8. As my son says: “What a rip”

    Suggest that everyone planning to stay at a Marriott send an email to the property with as many questions as you can think up: Do you charge a resort fee? How much is it? Does it include parking? Is it optional? What services does the resort fee cover? What other charges can I be charged without advance notice? If I don’t use the resort services can the fee be refunded? ….

    You get the idea. Enough of these questions and maybe they will treat their “guests” (inmates) with a little more respect and drop the subterfuge..

  9. It should be no controversy. Either:
    1) Include the resort fee in the room rate or
    2) make it fully optional. Because it is such a great value, many customers will buy into the resort fee.
    Note that many states already tax the resort fees as they would tax hotel room rates. Note that optional food charges are taxed that way. Thus, in view of state governments, the resort fees are already a part of the room rate.
    Of course, if resort fees will be included in the room rates, then the hotels will be loosing revenue from resort fees on award stays (something that Hilton and Hyatt are doing anyway) and would also have to pay in points for the portion of the room rate. Right now, you do not earn Bonvoy points on resort fees.

  10. Maybe the new Marriott CEO team will be wiser and handle this situation properly.

    What if Starbucks says, you need to have milk, sugar and whip cream on your drink and its $8 bucks automatically charged, and they don’t care if your are lactose intolerant, diabetic or on a diet plan.
    It comes with all drinks and you must pay for it. Hmm…

  11. Any travel website that includes the resort fee and taxes in the top line prices it lists, allowing accurate price comparison from the start, will win my business. Are you listening, Chase/Expedia?

  12. I’ve never understood why certain industries have a problem displaying the cost to the consumer before purchasing without clicking, reading fine print and getting out a calculator. If my vacation budget is $200 per night, I should be able to confidently select a $199 room to stay in budget.

  13. I hate so called resort fees as much as everyone else who has commented here.

    But as a legal case it simply won’t fly. The resort fees are deceptively hidden while you search and compare hotels which is most annoying.

    However they do pop up and get included in the total before you actually book.

    In my experience with many deceptive resort fees I have yet to see one which is not made clear before you actually book.

    Hence there is a strong moral case against them but no legal case.

  14. Hah. Marriott can only lose here. If they win the court case, then they give legislators a good reason to regulate the issue.

    I had a resort fee encounter back in the before times. Flew AMS-ORD and checked in downtown. I had made the reservation on the chain’s own site, and no mention was made anywhere of this fee. One of the “deliverables” covered by this fee was free coffee in the lobby… but only between 5 and 6 AM. Well, on euro time, that’s noon to one, and I was gonna call their bluff. So I hit the lobby at 5:55. No coffee anywhere. I went to the bar. The bartender told me it was after six already. So I went back upstairs and called the front desk, still before six. Resort fee removed.

    Abusive nonsense. I’m not afraid of what something costs, but I am profoundly insulted that, after contracting for a service, the supplying party thinks they can just charge me more for the convenience of not having to find somewhere else to sleep.

  15. Actually – They aren’t always included when you book.

    Many booking websites will add fine print, that says that the “Fee’s are collected at the hotel.” Not everyone reads those. Does everyone on this blog read those? Of course. This isn’t a blog filled with infrequent travelers. Many average people see a price, pay for it – And expect that to actually BE the price when they arrive. Only to find out… that is not often the case. You can read hundreds of reviews complaining about this.

    For me: I’m a Libertarian. I hate Government regulation of nearly any kind. However, just charge a price and stick to it. I mean: If you have to have small fine print saying “A 25$ resort will be charged upon arrival.” – That’s fucking deceptive. Even if *WE* aren’t deceived – Thousands of others are.

  16. To add insult to injury, I didn’t even receive points on the resort fee charged by MGM branded hotels.

  17. I was at a IHG in Fort Lauderdale who wanted to charge me $25 a night for parking. Told them no where on their website it says there is a charge to park in their lot. That is where I made the reservation from. Too bad. They did not charge me. My mother stayed there a month later and they pulled the same BS on her. She said “my son told me you were going to charge me for parking even though it is not on the website, so I am not paying for it, he told you that last month when he was here, dont try to $%#%# me too.”. The manager was not happy

  18. I had an incident at a Marriott in Calif when they tried to charge me a $5.00 day Energy surcharge and $15.00 parking. They gave me a sheet when i checked in that there would be a $5.00 energy surcharge due to the power problems in Southern Calif. at the time. I gave it back to her and said my rate includes electricity already. Upon check out I was told there was $15 day parking in the garage. Told them I did not park my car once in the garage the entire time I was there. I parked in the handicap parking space in the front of the building. (I did have a handicap person with MS with me). So I would NOT pay for use of a garage that I never used.

  19. DC attorneys should know to not ask anyone in the Marriott forum on FT for starters…they are lemmings who seem to defend the company to the death. All elites pay resort fees? Worthless Ambassador program for $14K spend? No elite recognition? No upgrades? No breakfast? Peak award dates everywhere? Unusable Cat 1-5 certs? No problem!

  20. These bogus fees have different nomenclature:
    Resort fee
    Destination fee
    Facility fee
    Urban Experience fee
    Resort Experience fee

    May I suggest paying hommage to the one who claimed these fees are good for guests by calling them “Arne Sorenson fees”?

  21. I was/ still am so disappointed that the Fairmont Hotels of Banff, Lake Louise, & Jasper added on Resort Fees circa 2017 as the chain was preparing to join Accor! It strikes me as beneath their dignity–something one would expect from Motels 6 with their quarter-operated TV sets in the 1970s! Come on, those Fairmonts are by far the most expensive in their towns, so it’s not like they have anything to hide.
    I love WileyDog’s & Nsx’s idea on how OLTAs should handle resort fees!

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