The Attorney General for Washington D.C. filed against Marriott for charging resort fees he said violated consumer protection laws. Marriott’s CEO, Arne Sorenson is defending the hotel giant’s practice, claiming the fees are “well disclosed.”
Resort fees, sometimes referred to as destination fees, or amenity fees,etc., are justified by hotels as a way to cover costs associated with providing services like a pool or gym, business center, laundry services, Wi-Fi, and the like. Marriott is not alone in this, but they are the only hotel named in the D.C. lawsuit.
The extra charges accrued by Marriott guests began appearing in resort-heavy destinations like Las Vegas and Hawaii. In recent years, the fees have expanded. They now include other resort towns AND hundreds of big-city downtown hotels and even some suburban hubs. The fees, instead of being listed as “resort fees” are now charged as “facilities” or “amenities” fees.
Sorenson likened these to the airline business in the interview. “You’ve got resort fees in the hotel industry, you’ve got baggage fees in the airline space. None of us as consumers necessarily love it. What we’ve tried to do is be very clear about our disclosure.”
Critics pointed out the false equivalency here in Sorenson’s argument because to airlines only charge passengers who check bags, but resort fees are mandatory across the board whether guests use the added services or not.
The D.C. Attorney General challenges the disclosure argument. Stating in the filings that the “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,” the lawsuit charged. The attorney general called hotel resort fees “straight-forward price deception.”
If there is any doubt what was at the hearing of this, the Marriott CEO said it plainly in that interview. When resort fees were introduced more than a decade ago, “Yes, they were financially driven in some respects.”
We will keep you informed as this case progresses.
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About the Author: Aisha K. Staggers is a writer, lecturer, political analyst and literary agent. She appears weekly for “Staggers’ State of Things” on The Dr. Vibe Show. Her work has been published by Paper Magazine, AfroPunk, The Spool, GREY Journal, MTV News, HuffPost, Blavity, Atlanta Blackstar, For Harriet, New York Review of Books and a host of other first-run publications and syndicated outlets. Find her on Twitter @AishaStaggers. For more of her work, check out her page here!