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Scott: Hidden fees make my blood boil. Just tell me the final complete price and list what I get for that cost.
Don’t make me think I found the hotel room at the price I want, then sneakily tack on extra fees when I’m about to complete my purchase.
Today, the Competition and Markets Authority in the UK launched action after an 8-month investigation. But what’s happening here in the US? The legal smack down is stalled, but there’s hope. We can make it happen… I’ll explain in a second.
The UK’s consumer watchdog is about to take these companies to court if they don’t agree to sign legal commitments to end their deceptive practices such as:
- online hotel booking sites’ price guarantees
- price promises like “lowest price” that mislead customers
- hidden resort fees
- pressuring statements that say things like “hurry, only 3 rooms left at this price!”
- transparency as to why some hotels are listed at the top of the results
Here’s a lovely explainer video of the investigation and news:
In the US, We Have a Champion, Attorney General Karl Racine
First off, our own consumer watchdog group, the FTC, already has a report on this insidious scourge of booking travel: ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF HOTEL RESORT FEES by the talented Mary W. Sullivan.
I’ll save you 49 pages of reading:
This analysis has not found any benefits to consumers from separately-disclosed mandatory resort fees that could not be achieved by first listing the total price and then disclosing the resort fee.
Can I get an Amen?
Now, on to our potential hero, Mr. Racine.
In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission found that resort fees are not required to be included on advertised hotel rates. This decision basically gave hotels an evil superpower previously stripped away from airlines and travel agents, who are both mandated to include all “incremental fees” in their final advertised prices.
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine is at the head of an investigation, along with the attorneys general in 47 states, into a dozen major hotel chains.
“What these lodging companies do is they hook the would-be buyer with a lower rate … then spring the additional charge on them. What’s illegal about it is that it misleads consumers as to what the actual price of a hotel room is,” Mr. Racine told CBS News.
It’s most than just talk, last year he subpoenaed Marriott.
Here’s the problem: Currently there is no US law that allows or DISALLOWS hotels to charge mandatory fees in addition to their base room rate. It’s a gray area devoid of light. And roaches romp in darkness.
We need a law.
Racine also revealed to CBS News, “The FTC in a way has gone dark and I think that to be honest, that has given some confidence to the hospitality industry perhaps they’re going to be able to wait out or otherwise evade the efforts of the 47 states because the FTC is no longer our partner.
Stand up and speak up to your local lawmakers who rely on your vote.
Look, I get it. Hotels are companies and companies are supposed to make money. But I’m sure the CEOs of hotels and online booking sites also hate it when they try to buy another yacht and the yacht salesman is all like, “Thanks for picking out your new ship. I know it was a long search. So, as we said, the price is $14 million. Oh, there’s also a $300,000 caviar refrigeration fee. No biggie, right?”
I applaud with my hands and my bookings all the hotels that respect their customers. Loyalty isn’t just built with points — it’s built by cultivating a customer relationship based on fairness.