The Fort Wayne, Indiana Fairfield Inn by Marriott is billing guests a surprise “energy surcharge” that appears to be 4% of the room rate.
This surcharge isn’t disclosed to customers when booking their room. The Marriott website only informs of government taxes and fees, not hotel-imposed additional charges.
The reader who shared it relays being “told it was to replace lightbulbs and pay for energy efficiency improvements.” When pressed, the front desk offered to remove the charge.
Hyatt doesn’t allow this practice and cracked down on the Chicago hotel that was trying it. However an independent property in Vegas was first to make news for an electricity surcharge earlier this year.
These sorts of charges are despicable on several levels:
- They are disingenuous because this is not a tax or optional charge, it’s a cost that you must pay if you stay in the room and that makes it part of the rate.
- This is fraudulent since the only purpose of charging separately, rather than including it in the rate, is to mislead consumers.
- It’s possibly actionable because it is drip pricing, since the room costs more than what consumers are originally quoted.
At some point we have to ask: what does the room rate even cover if it doesn’t include the lightbulbs in the room?
There’s clearly no relationship between the energy surcharge and the cost of power incurred by the room – there can’t be since the surcharge is a percentage of the room rate, surely guests don’t keep the lights on more on nights when the hotel charges more for the room. That makes it seem ripe for a lawsuit along the lines of the class action settlement with British Airways, because fuel surcharges weren’t related to the cost of fuel.
If we don’t keep careful watch over hotels right now practices like this are going to expand.
I reached out to Marriott to learn their policy on these kinds of surcharges and a spokesperson confirms, “Energy surcharges are not permitted.” I’ve let them know about this property’s practices so hopefully this will be ended – and guests that have been improperly charged refunded.