Marriott
Photograph ©2021 by Brian Cohen.

Mandatory Resort Fees to Be More Prominently Displayed By Marriott International, Incorporated Due to Settlement

It is a start — but the mandatory resort fees still exist.

As the result of a settlement which was reached between Marriott International, Incorporated and the office of the attorney general of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the multinational lodging company will display mandatory resort fees more prominently with room rates during the process of booking reservations.

Mandatory Resort Fees to Be More Prominently Displayed By Marriott International, Incorporated Due to Settlement

Sheraton Atlanta Perimeter North Hotel
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

“Hotels shouldn’t be able to slap hidden fees on top of your bill at the last minute, and thanks to this settlement we’re putting the hotel industry on notice to put an end to this deceptive practice,” Josh Shapiro was quoted as saying, according to this official press release from his office in Harrisburg. “With costs going up and more seniors and families traveling for the holidays, consumers should beware of these surprise fees when booking. Marriott has stepped up to commit itself to fix this practice and we expect more hotel chains to follow suit.”

Shapiro encourages consumers to continue to beware of hidden fees when booking lodging reservations this coming holiday travel season, as an investigation from his office focused on the practice which is commonly referred as the drip pricing method in which mandatory fees are gradually disclosed to consumers as they go through the process of booking reservations. Customers often do not learn about the total price of their reservation until the last part of the process — when the mandatory resort fee appears — and sometimes not until they actually check in at the hotel or resort property.

Such a pricing model is considered to be deceptive and a violation of the Consumer Protection Law of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the attorney general argues in the aforementioned press release. Through the settlement — which became official on Tuesday, November 16, 2021 and was filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas by senior deputy attorney general Jill T. Ambrose — “Marriott has committed to prominently disclose the total price of a hotel stay, including room rate and all other mandatory fees, on the first page of its booking website as part of the total room rate. Marriott has committed to implementing these changes within the next nine months. This will benefit not just Pennsylvanians, but consumers nationwide.”

As one of the largest hotel companies in the United States, Marriott International, Incorporated was commended by Shapiro for being the first lodging company to formally commit to the upfront disclosure of mandatory resort fees as part of the initial advertised price. Not only does the attorney general believe that this practice should be considered the industry standard going forward; but he also expects other hotel lodging companies and third party vendors “will take notice and follow suit.”

Over the years, travelers have been reportedly misled by the published rates offered by hotels for a night’s stay only later to be hit with “resort fees” through the hotel industry’s practice of “drip pricing,” where the rate advertised does not include additional mandatory fees. With this settlement, Marriott has committed to putting a policy in place to be upfront and transparent in the disclosure of mandatory fees, including resort fees, as part of the total price of a hotel stay– allowing consumers to be able to compare total price costs for hotels and find the one that is the best fit for them.

Lawsuit Against Marriott International, Incorporated by the District of Columbia

The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The attorney general of Pennsylvania was not the only legal entity which has taken Marriott International, Incorporated to task pertaining to mandatory resort fees: a lawsuit was filed against Marriott International, Incorporated on Tuesday, July 9, 2019 by Karl A. Racine, who is the current attorney general of the District of Columbia; and it claims that the multinational lodging corporation purposely both hid the true price of hotel rooms from consumers and charged hidden mandatory resort fees for the purpose of increasing profits.

That lawsuit followed an investigation into the pricing practices of the lodging industry by the attorneys general in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The office of the attorney general of the District of Columbia is seeking a court order to force Marriott International, Incorporated to advertise the true prices of its hotel rooms up front; pay restitution to consumers in the District of Columbia who paid deceptive mandatory resort fees; and pay civil penalties for allegedly violating the Consumer Protection Procedures Act of the District of Columbia.

“Marriott reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in profit by deceiving consumers about the true price of its hotel rooms,” said Racine, according to this official press release. “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.”

Hotel and resort properties of Marriott International, Incorporated have allegedly collected greater than $220 million solely on mandatory daily fees — which are known euphemistically by such names as resort fees, destination fees, facilities fees, amenities fees, and tourism fees — since 2012.

The process of better disclosure of mandatory daily fees is expected to take up to nine months to be fully implemented by Marriott International, Incorporated — but the process has already started, as noticed by members of FlyerTalk.

Past Unsuccessful Legal Attempts in Fighting Mandatory Resort Fees

Marriott Cairo
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Claire McCaskill wrote this letter on Thursday, July 16, 2015 to Edith Ramirez — who is now the former chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission — in a failed effort to encourage the government agency to put an end to the practice of mandatory resort fees in the lodging industry using its existing broad authority to prevent unfair and deceptive advertising. Inaction from the agency prompted McCaskill — who was a Democratic senator of the United States who represented the state of Missouri and a former chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security — to introduce legislation prohibiting management of hotel and resort properties from charging resort fees on Friday, February 26, 2016 specifically designed to be initially hidden from the consumer; requiring disclosure of said resort fees; and include the full cost of a stay in the room rate.

I reported in this in-depth article on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 pertaining to the proliferation of resort fees when the Federal Trade Commission of the United States finally announced that it was taking action against the practice of hotel properties — including those of Marriott International, Incorporated — to charge undisclosed mandatory resort fees to its guests.

As a result of its investigation, the Federal Trade Commission — a division of the United States government charged with protecting the American consumer — had warned 22 hotel operators that their Internet reservation web sites may violate the law by providing a deceptively low estimate of what consumers can expect to pay for their hotel rooms. “Consumers are entitled to know in advance the total cost of their hotel stays,” said Jon Leibowitz — then the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission — in this release by the Federal Trade Commission, at which a copy of the warning letter in portable document format is included. “So-called ‘drip pricing’ charges, sometimes portrayed as ‘convenience’ or ‘service’ fees, are anything but convenient, and businesses that hide them are doing a huge disservice to American consumers.”

The Bureau of Consumer Protection of the Federal Trade Commission of the United States issued this report on Thursday, January 5, 2017 which concluded that “separating mandatory resort fees from posted room rates without first disclosing the total price is likely to harm consumers.”

Unfortunately, neither lawsuits nor petitions nor boycotts nor intervention by the Federal Trade Commission of the United States have helped to control the proliferation of mandatory resort fees — at least, not yet, anyway.

Readers of The Gate Reported Successfully Reclaiming Resort Fees They Paid

Atlanta Marriott Marquis
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

As I originally wrote in this article pertaining to how to reclaim the mandatory resort fees hotel guests were forced to pay on Sunday, June 16, 2019, “You only need to spend as few as 60 seconds worth of your time and effort to likely reclaim the mandatory resort fees which you paid when you stayed at a hotel or resort property which had the audacity to charge them.” Simply contact the attorney general in the jurisdiction in which you reside or the jurisdiction in which the mandatory resort fee was charged. Links to the attorneys general is included in the aforementioned article for your convenience; but whether or not only customers who are based in the United States can qualify to place the request — as well as a sample letter for best results — has not yet been included in that article.

According to this comment posted by Ollie — who is a reader of The Gate — success in reclaiming a paid mandatory resort fee was relatively fast and easy: “Wow. That was quick. I received a call from the hotel today (that’s within seven days of filing!) offering a refund. I’m very impressed this worked. I told her I was grateful, but that the main reason I filed was to protest against the industry practice of resort fees. It sounded like I wasn’t the first person to say this. Hopefully enough people will do this to make a difference in their practices. Thanks again Brian for suggesting this.”

Similar success of reclaiming a paid mandatory resort fee was achieved by Mike, who is also a reader of The Gate: “I just did this recently and successfully got $100 back for 2 nights at the Venetian.”

If you have been forced to pay mandatory resort fees at a hotel or resort property, please refer to this article pertaining to how you can possible reclaim that money.

You can also negotiate the reduction or elimination of mandatory fees upon checking in to a hotel or resort property, as you have nothing to lose — and more money to potentially keep in your wallet or purse.

Final Boarding Call

Marriott
Photograph ©2021 by Brian Cohen.

Although the delayed inclusion of mandatory resort fees is technically not illegal in and of itself — as they are introduced during the process prior to the final part of booking a reservation with which money may be exchanged in consideration for the product and service which is to be offered — the practice still potentially deceives consumers by having them pay extra money needlessly due to them thinking they found a lower room rate than at a competing hotel before the mandatory resort fee is added…

…and although one might argue that the consumer is responsible for the final decision of his or her purchase, companies should not try to frustrate their customers by encouraging a process which is potentially more difficult to follow in order to increase profits. “Simply booking a hotel room at a reasonable room rate should not be an overly complicated process” is what I wrote in this article yesterday pertaining to MGM Resorts being sued for false advertising via resort fees by Travelers United. “However, MGM Resorts International is certainly not the only casino and hotel company in Las Vegas which charges mandatory daily resort fees, as many major lodging companies — typically with casinos and entertainment venues — charge them as well.” Caesars Entertainment is another one of those lodging companies.

I have no problem with lodging companies profiting from its customers; but that I vehemently oppose the implementation of mandatory daily resort fees, facilities fees and destination fees is no secret to you if you have been a reader of The Gate for years — they should either be optional or eliminated altogether — and I will just let this extensive body of work over the years pertaining to mandatory daily resort fees speak for me…

All photographs ©2015, ©2017, and 2021 by Brian Cohen.

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