For years I have argued that hotels and online travel agencies should be forced to disclose all-in pricing at all points of the hotel search process. We may finally be one step closer to that goal.
Mandatory “fees” are proliferating at hotels. Quite honestly, it is becoming absurd when even some small towns are tacking on extra “destination” fees for internet, bottles of water, and the use of outdoor swimming pools.
If you need to better understand why these fees are so pernicious, check out this story I wrote on the topic in 2014. There, I noted the following primary issue:
This is deception–bait and switch to get me to click through, knowing full well that had the real price been shown, I would not have clicked through.
That really gets to the heart of the issue. Hotels and resorts are free to tack on whatever fees they want. I’m not for telling a business they cannot charge what the market will bear. But I am adamant about ensuring that consumers clearly understand what they must pay.
District of Columbia Sues Marriott
Now at least one governmental body is trying to address the issue. The District of Columbia Attorney General has sued Marriott over these fees. If you are so inclined, you can read the full complaint here. DC Attorney General Racine said:
Marriott reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in profit by deceiving consumers about the true price of its hotel rooms. Bait-and-switch advertising and deceptive pricing practices are illegal. With this lawsuit, we are seeking monetary relief for tens of thousands of District consumers who paid hidden resort fees and to force Marriott to be fully transparent about their prices so consumers can make informed decisions when booking hotel rooms.
As noted by One Mile at a Time, the lawsuit points to consumer harm in four main areas:
- Hiding the true price of hotel rooms
- Failing to clearly disclose all booking fees
- Misrepresenting that resort fees are imposed by the government
- Misleading consumers about what resort fees actually pay for
This lawsuit is very good news for consumers.
While a patchwork solution from state attorneys general is better than nothing, Congress, under its Commerce Clause power, should regulate this issue once and for all, as it did with airfare.
This is an issue that should unite the right (to encourage an efficient, free-flowing economy) and left (to avoid consumer confusion). I have yet to hear one convincing argument for why this all-in pricing should not be mandated.
How do you feel about resorts fees and all-in pricing at hotels?