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.