Attorney General Sues Marriott Over Resort Fees

Filed Under: Hotels, Marriott

One of the most annoying trends in the hotel industry is resort fees, destination fees, facility fees… whatever you’d like to call them. Essentially these are added mandatory charges that hotels tack on to the room rate.

Why hotels charge resort fees

Hotels charge these fees for a variety of reasons:

  • They’re a way for hotels to try and get more revenue without increasing the “transparent” room rate
  • It works out better for the hotel than an increase in the room rate, since historically they don’t have to pay travel agents a commission on these fees
  • In some areas it also allows hotels to skirt the typical occupancy tax that otherwise applies on the room rate

Hotels are largely delusional about these fees, and the Hotel Association of New York has stated that guest “appreciate the value offered” by these fees.

While I’m not generally for the government getting involved in everything, I’ve long said that I think it would benefit consumers for the government to at least require hotels to be forced to advertise all-in pricing, just as they require of airlines. I’m not saying hotels shouldn’t be allowed to charge these fees, but rather that they have to be clearly disclosed.

Well, it looks like we may finally see some progress on this front.

Attorney General files lawsuit over resort fees

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine has today filed a lawsuit against Marriott for hiding the true price of hotel rooms from consumers and for charging hidden resort fees to increase profits.

He argues that this practice has harmed consumers, and he wants to force Marriott to advertise the true price for their hotels up-front, and also to provide monetary relief to DC consumers who have been harmed by this policy.

Attorney General Racine had the following to say:

“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.”

The lawsuit notes that many people book hotels through comparison sites, so to lure customers, some hotels advertise daily rates that are lower than the true total price consumers will have to pay for a room. Then when consumers book, the hotel adds mandatory fees.

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 lists 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.

Bottom line

This is a rough day for Marriott, between the fine they’re getting for their data breach, and now this lawsuit. I’m not sure why exactly Marriott is being targeted here over other hotel groups, because this is something many major hotel groups are guilty of.

However, I’m thrilled to see the government finally take on resort fees. Like I said, this isn’t about forcing hotels not to charge these fees, but rather is about forcing hotels to accurately advertise prices from the beginning of the booking process.

Here’s to hoping that other parts of the country beyond DC file similar suits…

(Tip of the hat to @JamesScott2, bo jangles, and many more)

Comments
  1. This is just typical big government interfering with the free market and its right to screw over consumers to please investors.

  2. Great! Next should be the fight for sales tax to be included in all prices – on everything. A lot more deception is done by displaying $9.99 when the price paid is closer to $11.

  3. Great! Next should be the fight for sales taxes to be included in all advertised prices. A lot more damage is done by displaying $9.99 when the price paid is closer to 11.

  4. doesn’t every major hotel conglomerate follow a similar practice on resort fees and destination fees ? why just target Marriott ? If they’re fair they should sue all the major players.

  5. I LOVE THIS!!!! And I can’t wait to see it expand to other perpetrators in the “hospitality” business.

  6. Keep in mind, Marriott will get their money, whether it’s included in the room rate or a resort fee tacked on. This probably isn’t going to result in lower overall cost to the customer but I’m in total agreement that resort fees need to go.

  7. In my opinion this should be coming from the legislative branch and should tackle the whole range of internet pricing not being displayed truthfully (adding “fees” at the last step) its a huge problem in the age of information where everyone tries to appear competitive.

  8. I don’t like resort fees. but to posit that they’re hidden fees is just plain incorrect, and you’d think an attorney would be able to tell that. I don’t know anyone who books a room based solely on the room rate.

  9. I think the DC AG filed against Marriott as it’s the city’s homegrown hotel brand (and certainly Marriott and SPG have a ton of properties in the District as compared
    to Hyatt or Hilton), so there’s a bit of symbolism here too. This will get the attention of the Marriott family in a way distinct from, say, a suit by the AG of Wisconsin.

  10. A major argument the AG left out: the number and types of ‘amenities’ the fees cover remain almost universally unchanged, while the fees for those same services have skyrocketed over the time from when we first started seeing this garbage until now. There is almost zero correlation of the fee being tied to a specific ‘amenity’ since these are mandatory anyways.

    Marriott wanted to get bigger and bigger through acquisitions…now they are front and center on regulators’ radars, and they deserve every second of it.

  11. Marriott is the easiest to sue. They will probably settle and then this will encourage other hotels to do the same. Marriott has too much on its plate right now so I can see them settle this and let other attorneys general go after the other hotel chains.

  12. I completely agree with Chase. Marriott’s resort fees are awful. Any mandatory fee should be included in room rate.

  13. Time for Marriott to increase prices and do away with resort fees. People can choose to stay with them or not. Why bother playing the stupid game of gotcha?! Every chain should do the same. Just be upfront with all the pricing than to have us consumers doing all the math after. In fact, all room rates posted on websites should automatically include all local taxes so you get the real picture of the cost per night than getting that info while entering credit card number. Just makes life easier.

  14. I’ve never understood why airlines were singled out and required to pretend the government’s ridiculous taxation of a plane ticket was part of the fare, while hotel’s can basically say the rate is one thing and charge another. The scariest words in the English language may be “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”, but I agree with @lucky that all fees, taxes, etc. should be disclosed clearly, just like the airlines must do. After all, isn’t the government’s meaningless buzzword of the moment “transparency”?

  15. I like the Spirit Airlines model. Advertise all in pricing, but then have a nice breakdown of all of the fees including government taxes and fees.

  16. Hallelujah. Truly. I haven’t been this happy over a miles and points development in a while.

  17. Hotels need to be required just like airlines to disclose their “true all-in price” while you are searching, etc. Airlines had to change and did just fine. I’ve always felt a resort or destination fee should have been a one time fee whether you stay 1 night or 5 nights. Had Marriott done that, maybe the DC AG would have not filed the lawsuit. Also, if you have status or a hotel chain’s co-branded credit card you already get most of those “amenities” included (wifi access, a bottle of water, etc.). Also, resort fees should be for resort related activities for example full-service pools, beachfront access, golf course access or other resort type activities. Also, Marriott is everywhere so that’s why the DC AG filed his lawsuit. Go after the biggest fish!

  18. Wonderful Well done AG of DC!
    I am disgusted that Hyatt hotels have started adding these scam fees in some locations. I have enjoyed staying at Hyatts in NY SF and DC but I will never again stay in any hotel that charges a resort fee or whatever they want to call it. I’ll stay at Hyatt House or Hyatt Place unless they start charging these fraudulent fees too.

  19. Another great example of an issue government has no business sticking their noses. It fascinates me the number of individuals incapable of managing their lives and who need the government to “rescue” them from their deficiencies.

    “Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.” Ludwig von Mises

  20. Generally not a big government guy? But surprise, surprise, since you spend a lot of time in hotels, you’re all for more regulation.

  21. $65.00 per night at the Westin Grand Cayman and getting nothing more than I’m entitled as an Ambassador…and 4 years ago when the feet was $30.00 a day the rafts were free…Now $10.00 a day and must look like they came out of a shark tank.

    SHAME, SHAME, SHAME

  22. It’s really not hard. Be transparent. The mandatory bs fee is part of the room rate. Period. This is govt actually being useful.

  23. An Asinine quote from a long-dead Ass is still Asinine!
    Good job DC AG, you showed politicians still care about common people’s problems. Now add other fee predators in that too.
    Looks like it is the hunting season on predators of all types, how much ever they are connected.

  24. Marriott is the worst offender in how the information is displayed. Go make a dummy booking for a night in Hawaii on Marriott and Hilton and the difference is immediately apparent. Marriott states the price twice before the resort fee is added in, and it appears only as “taxes and fees,” and the resort fee is bundled in and only visible if you click the drop down menu.

    Hilton, on the other hand, has a banner as soon as you click through on the property that discloses the fee on the top of the page.

    Marriott’s website is pretty obviously designed to obscure the fee and to present a lower price to bait customers into continuing. Resort fees are bad enough, but Marriott’s cynical approach to disclosing them is really lame. There’s no doubt that pretty much anyone in the travel hacking community knows about resort fees and is not misled. Marriott’s website, however, is obviously attempting to obscure the fees and to pass them off as mandatory government type of fees in the hope that customers will not inquire. It’s not a fair business practice the way Marriott does it.

  25. @henry
    because filing a lawsuit against all hotels is kind of ridiculous and will never go to court. So you sue one and the rest of the hotel industry will say “the gig is up”.

    But yeah, it’s the start of election season so politicians are trying to show they do things for us to get re-elected. But whatever, as long as stuff like this gets done.

  26. Good, but not in all cases. Frequently the resort fee doesn’t apply to some corporate rates, so in some cases eliminating the resort fee will mean higher rates.

  27. Resort fees are especially annoying for those of us who book directly & have status. The resort fee essentially charges guests for items that are free w status (gym access, WiFi, water in the room…) and so I have argued a million times w Hilton that as a Diamond I shouldn’t have to pay it. Success rate is 50/50…
    Resort & destination fees came about for hotels to skirt taxes & appeal to OTA consumers – here’s to hoping the judge sides with the DC AG!

  28. Can’t say I feel sorry for Marriott. I recall wanting to use points at a St. Regis property and decided not to book after seeing there was a $50 or $60 resort fee. One of the “benefits” was a complimentary drink at the bar. If I want to go for drinks, then I will go for drinks where I want to go. Don’t be selling me something I don’t need or don’t want. We have been screwed around enough.

  29. Resort fees are a scam…period, deceptive pricing and advertising,with no value add for consumers, travel agencies or government.

    I’ll go out of my way to stay at a property not charging these fees, even if I have to give up my Marriott (or whoever) elite benefits. I never pay them and never will.

  30. Agree the title is misleading and should say DC AG…..

    Even MGM resort in Vegas is realizing the gig is up. Up until a few months ago, comped rooms forced you to pay the resort fees. I guess enough people pushed back and now a comped room really is free.

  31. I am curious about how much slower the check-in process has become at hotels that have the fees vs those that don’t. It seems like whenever I am checking in at a hotel with resort fees (destination/facility, etc.) I always end up stuck in a line because folks are confused about why they have to pay more or what the “benefits” entail.

  32. The saying is that only death and taxes are inevitable…not death, taxes, and resort fees.

    The problem with how they and others represent it as being a type of tax.

    In reality most times I’m able to book a room with no resort fees because they always have the ability to waive it…

    They cant ever waive a tax.

    This makes the fees a tax on those who cant get fees waived for one reason or another.

  33. Pretty much all hotels in Las Vegas charge resort fees.
    I had many times where I had prepaid for my room in advance, only to be charged mandatory resort fees at check-in.
    They explained that the resort fees cover for use of pool and other common facilities. But when I asked if I don’t end up using those facilities will I get a refund of the resort fee they said no….

  34. About time !!!! Hotels are out of control with those fees!!! It should be only one fee and that’s it, the price of the room, they are very smart, genius inventing all all those ridiculous fees

  35. In the land where a 50c stamp costs 56c, anything is possible. But what we all really need is a court decision in favour of a customer who refused to pay the resort fees

  36. The problem is Marriott allows their franchaises to add these fees to increase their profits at the expense of their loyalty program. They gave a benefit to their local guests and now want to back charge them. One of the problems Marriott and other businesses have today is that they want customer base to be loyal to company but once they have your money don’t feel and obligation to return the loyalty.

  37. In many parts of the world the price you see is the price you pay.

    I was looking at booking a hotel for a trip to the US in a couple of weeks. The room rate was OK BUT not when clicking through the state and local taxes were added. These are known so should be included in the rate displayed right up front. And then there was the resort fee to be added on top of that. All these were known and should be stated up front.

    I loath resort fees – especially for facilities I don’t use such as a hotel gym or where the ‘free’ coffee in the lobby is only available for a couple of hours a day and not 24 hours. As for the free newspaper that that only have 3 copies of ……..

  38. You could make the same
    argument about cruise lines who advertise a low price and force you to pay gratuities and other mandatory fees.

  39. The percentage resort fees, the $75+ resort fees riddled throughout the Caribbean and other locations are annoying, to include the hidden per person fees in the Bahamas and elsewhere. Very deceptive practice, since everything you “get” should be provided anyway. Instead it’s a revenue generator designed to skip out paying taxes. Oh resort fee plus charge for parking, hotel on beach let’s use our “outfitter” to charge $30 for chairs and an umbrella. Pathetic.

  40. “@James N…but its ok for government to tell women what to do with their body”

    Congrats, the most ignorant, irrelevant comment on the thread.

  41. Thank you very much and I hope other attorney generals will take notice. I was really angry when i was charged a resort fee while staying at a Hilton Garden Inn in Waikiki Beach, which is not a resort or provides any amenities that warrant the resort fee.

    This resort fee is getting out of control!

  42. Can things get worse? Yes – at least one hotel (Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn) charges double resort fees – a $39 resort fee, and an additional $39/person to use the pool.

  43. How do I give a standing ovation on a bloggers site? 🙂
    Who can forget the daily electricity energy fees years ago to use electricity in the guest room
    Where does it stop? I just booked a Hilton because it didn’t have the resort fee on points
    I otherwise would have bought my room for revenue from Marriott in Hawaii for 5 nights
    They lose thousands from me every year as I book away

  44. Kudos and Good start for the government. Now, they need to go after the insurance companies, financial institutions, and the social security administration.

  45. @ Dave — Because I don’t really care what they’re technically charging as long as it’s all-in pricing? If everything is displayed at once then they can break down every part of the stay, as far as I’m concerned (like a $10 electricity charge, $10 housekeeping charge, $20 base room rate, etc.).

  46. Marriott has the worst online booking. Try booking a handicap room. Very difficult to find this room when booking. I have called to complain multiple times. Hope this is included in any legal action. Also, find when I do figure out how to edit to get a mobility handicap room they sometimes cost more.

  47. I tend to agree that the only change should be that hotels should have to market the all-in price up front just like an airline. Would you rather fly a Spirit flight with a base fare of $9 that after taxes and fees is $139 or a mainline basic economy fare that is $29 but only $109 after taxes and fees. No one cares what the base fare is (OK apart from earning miles), they care about the total. Hotels should show the same thing. If their marketing partners want to cry that resort fees are subject to commissions or whatever, that is between them, but as a consumer, when I search for a hotel on any major search engine, I would like for the price that comes up at the first result to be the price that will be charged.

  48. I would think that hotels will make changes on their websites, just like airlines with basic economy, hotels will give options on wifi, breakfast, water, usage of gym and others for additional fees.

  49. Here is my thought on this. If you don’t want to pay for a resort fee, go stay someone else. Many small limited service properties don’t charge for a resort fee. You won’t get the nicer rooms and/or amenities that come with the resort fee but, at least you save money. Almost every full-service hotels in Las Vegas charge for a resort/destinate fees.

  50. Is funny, sometimes Marriott even wave the fee as a goodwill, and that is paying for things that by itself would be more expensive like beverages or golf courses, but they see the resort fee as something bad, they never hide the extra charge for resorts, when you book a room you know that the grand total is not what you see as “Room rate”, but anyways.

  51. So sad for Marriott … thinking they own the hotel world is catching up with them. Gotcha ❤️ karma is real! They thought they were BMOC when they slashed 3rd party commission by 30% that moved biz elsewhere until mostly every other chain followed. Too many hotels & not easy to work with. Hotels also have hidden fees when hosting a meeting at their M hotels. This is not the same company that Bill Sr. envisioned when he started company. Now it’s GREED!

  52. I think they could get away with this if the things they are charging for are truly optional. In that case, during display of any features of the hotel in advertising it would need to mark out those optional features (wi-fi, fitness center, etc..).

  53. I used to max Hyatt, Hilton, but always Marriott first (well trying to not go over into unpublished program territory since there was far more benefit to have all options.) I still prefer Marriott (am sitting in my second property in two days typing this :).) It HAS seemed Marriott has been more egregious. Some properties tried to give Starbucks vouchers and things when almost everywhere had a new fee. And yes, I already get wi-fi and a a downtown business hotel I’d prefer to pay per use at the virtual bowling because…well don’t use things like that unless ACTUALLY at a resort. Where the fees cover nothing new. Preaching to the choir. But Marriott was the worst offender when the uptick started and continues to be in every way.

  54. Good to see government flexing its muscle for good. The more regulation the better. If the ‘free market’ refuses to be free and needs to rely on deception and tricks, then they should be stomped into oblivion. Show the rates up front so we can decide to go somewhere else or remove the fees entirely and get your rooms booked again.

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