FTC Chairwoman Goes After Pesky “Resort Fees” at Hotels
Have you ever gone to check out of your hotel room, maybe after a nice relaxing vacation, only to discover that there are “resort fees” that you owe? Resort fees can include things like use of the pool, wi-fi, housekeeping, or “complimentary” breakfast. But they usually aren’t advertised up front, so these fees come as an unpleasant surprise to the guests when they try to check out. But, if Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Edith Ramirez gets her way, Congress will do something to protect consumers from these tricky hidden fees.
Ramirez wrote a letter to 10 members of Congress, asking for them to draft legislation to prevent hotels from charging these expensive, and hidden fees. She specifically targeted representatives who had previously spoken out against the fees. Last year Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called on the FTC to investigate online hotel booking sites and the hidden fees they may have that “push the price of the hotel room beyond what the actual hotel would charge.” Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) and Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) have also encouraged the FTC to look into these fees. Right now, the FTC looks into each allegation individually, on a case-by-case basis, and has warned different hotels that their hidden fees may “violate the law” in the past.
A study by a non-profit consumer advocacy group called Travelers United recently found that these kinds of fees have been increasing in California, with “nearly 200 hotels in California charging an average mandatory resort fee of $17 per night.” However, a hotel trade group, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, has stated that the number of hotels that charge these fees is on a decline overall. Rosanna Maietta, a spokeswoman for the group, stated:
The lodging industry provides guests full disclosure for resort fees charged upfront. Those fees, in addition to the base travel and hotel charges, remain transparent whether consumers book online or with the hotel directly.
However, that hasn’t stopped people from getting surprised with resort fees, and many Americans believe that fees should be disclosed before guests book anything. A poll commissioned by Travelers United found that 80 percent of respondents want resort fees included in advertised pricing, and 87 percent would be less likely to stay at a hotel if they were charged fees for amenities they did not use or want.
Whether Congress will actually take action will be interesting to watch–given that a few congresspeople have already been talking about the issue it certainly bodes well, but only time will tell.