Now Hilton is Being Sued Over Resort Fees, Too

Washington DC is suing Marriott over deceptive resort fees. While resort fees are generally disclosed prior to completing a booking,

  • Hotel chains advertise prices that don’t include resort fees. That leads consumers to expect a lower price than they are going to pay and it makes comparing prices difficult.
  • Disclosures aren’t made as clearly as the price that’s advertised.

In some sense it was strange to go after just Marriott whose practices are no worse than the rest of the industry. It turns out that while the attorneys generals of all 50 states and the District of Columbia were investigating resort fees, they had broken out the work and D.C. was directly involved with investigating Marriott.

Now that D.C. broke away from the group and filed a case on its own, it’s not surprising to see additional defections. Nebraska is now suing Hilton over resort fees.

The Attorney General alleges that Hilton’s deceptive and misleading pricing practices and failure to disclose fees harmed consumers and violated Nebraska’s consumer protection laws. The Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks to force Hilton to advertise the true prices of its hotel rooms up front, provide monetary relief to harmed Nebraska consumers, and pay civil penalties.

Nebraska’s research found that “At least 78 Hilton properties in the United States currently charge these hidden fees, which range from $15 to as much as $45 per room per night, and consumers only find out about these fees after they begin to book a room” and that “resort fee disclosures are often hidden in obscure areas, confusingly worded, or presented in smaller print than the advertised rates.”

At least Hilton and Hyatt don’t charge guests resort fees when redeeming points (Hyatt waives resort fees for top tier elites on paid stays as well). Marriott makes guests using their points pay resort fees.

Although Hilton Honors terms say that when a resort fee includes an item that would otherwise be free as an elite or program benefit then it’s not a benefit of the Honors program. That way if a hotel wants to include high speed internet in its resort fee offering they don’t have a problem with Gold and Diamond members already being entitled to it free anyway. In other words at Hilton resort fees actually reduce elite benefits too.

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 and indeed for not showing it as part of the cost of a stay. There’s nothing optional about a resort fee, which means it’s part of the price or room rate.

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. Excellent! I can’t wait until the avalanche of class action lawsuits are introduced. Not only do I hope resort fees go away, it would be justice to get a few bucks back from a settlement as well.

  2. I consider these resort fees to be a bit of a “bait and switch”… they bait you with a “low” room price (I use “low” in quotes because resorts are NEVER low-cost)… then switch the price by raising it with the resort fee… I even loathe it more when you have local taxes against those resort fees, too!! In South Beach, you still have to rent the chair on the beach so, really, what does a resort fee even include??!! Beach towel? I’d just take one from my room. Resort fees are just a “hotel-based tax” to me.

  3. Now that D.C. broke away from the group and filed a case on its own, it’s not surprising to see additional defections.

    This implies:

    1. There was a coordinated investigation among the states.
    2. DC’s lawsuit was filed outside of the planned coordination.
    3. Nebraska’s lawsuit was also file outside of the coordinated investigation.

    Nothing in the items you’ve linked indicates that any of these three points are actually true. Is there an article that we could read elsewhere that supports them?

  4. @David,

    Good luck with a class action suit and even if one is successful you can bet any funds will go to cover attorneys (ambulance chasers) fees. Any such agreement would likely include the hotels agreeing to more prominently display the resort fees.

    BTW, I seriously doubt either of these suits against Marriott or Hilton will succeed. While people hate resort or destination fees they are disclosed (maybe in small print or only when you agree to final pricing). My guess is they will be displayed better so people can make an informed decision.

    Don’t get your hopes up too high on this one.

  5. Outstanding. I could care less about any $$ recovery – all we want is a settlement or injunction that permanently disposes of these garbage fees.

  6. Yes, this needs to stop. Morse states should sue. Show me a petition and I’ll sign it. Unify an online form that sends a letter to local Congress reps and I know troves of people that would fill out that form. Make it easy for people to stand up and be heard about this and it will end. The problem is the path to recourse or complain is not easy. Well some channels of complaint are easy I suppose, but those won’t realistically result in change. Hit em where it hurts, hit their wallet. I’ve already boycotted a dozen properties last year alone where resort fees were charged for stupid stuff like internet and long distance phone calls.

  7. Resort fees in remote destinations are borderline understandable. Destination fees in major cities is a bloody rip off.

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