The Attorney General for the District of Columbia in the US said the multinational hotel chain was misleading customers by advertising room rates without including mandatory resort fees.
The Attorney General made his announcement in a series of tweets, saying that deceptive resort fees should be abolished. In a series of tweets announcing the lawsuit, Attorney General Karl Racine said: “Today I am suing Marriott International for charging consumers deceptive resort fees when booking hotel rooms. Through these fees, Marriott hides the true price and misleads consumers to increase company profits.”
In further tweets, he explained his decision to sue: “Marriott charged resort fees that ranged from $9 to as much as $95 per room per day. Discovering these charges only after a consumer has started to book a room makes it extremely difficult to compare prices and make informed choices. In some instances, Marriott led consumers to believe the resort fees were government-imposed charges, rather than additional daily charges paid to Marriott. This kind of Bait and Switch advertising and other forms of deceptive pricing are unfair and illegal.”
The hotel industry has a nasty habit of charging resort fees, facility fees, destination fees or whatever other name they decide. Essentially these are added mandatory charges that hotels tack onto a room rate, at their own discretion.
Why do hotels charge resort fees?
Hotels charge these fees for a variety of reasons, they are a way for hotels to try and get more revenue without increasing the room rate. As they don’t have to pay a commission to travel agents on fees they charge, they set to profit more this way. Hotels charge them in popular tourist locations, but they are more widely charged in the US. They are for the use of the facilities on site such as swimming pool or gym. They are mandatory regardless of whether or not you use the facilities. They can hike up the cost of your stay substantially and more often than not this is only disclosed to the visitor at the end of their stay.
The lawsuit alleges that consumers have been harmed in the following ways:
Hiding the true price of hotel rooms: Marriott conceals the true total price of hotel rooms by advertising one rate, then charging mandatory “resort fees,” “amenity fees,” or “destination fees” on top of the advertised price. At least 189 Marriott properties worldwide charge these hidden fees, which range from $9 to as much as $95 per room per day, and consumers only find out about these fees after they begin to book a room.
Failing to clearly disclose all booking fees: The room prices Marriott list on its own website and on third-party hotel-booking sites do not include mandatory resort fees and these fees are not disclosed up front. Consumers do not learn the total price of their hotel rooms until they begin the booking process, and resort fee disclosures are often hidden in obscure areas, confusingly worded, or presented in smaller print than the advertised rates. This leads consumers to believe they will be paying less for a hotel room than the true total cost. It also makes it extremely difficult for consumers to gather all the information they need to compare prices and make informed choices.
Misrepresenting that resort fees are imposed by the government: In many instances, Marriott includes resort fees near the end of a hotel-booking transaction under the heading “Taxes and Fees.” By combining the amounts that consumers were asked to pay for resort fees with their tax payments under a generic heading, Marriott leads consumers to believe the resort fees were government-imposed charges, rather than additional daily charges paid to Marriott.
Misleading consumers about what resort fees actually pay for: In some instances, Marriott makes confusing or contradictory representations about why they are charging resort fees and what services or amenities consumers are actually paying for.