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Group asks FTC to compel inclusion of resort fees in advertised room rate

A travel consumer advocacy group is stepping up its efforts to get the Federal Trade Commission to compel hotels to include mandatory resort fees in the total advertised price for a room.

The issue isn’t a new one for the FTC, which in 2012, sent nearly two dozen warning letters to hotel operators. But so far, the agency hasn’t taken any enforcement action against hotels to halt the practice known as “drip pricing.”

To press the case, Travelers United president and co-founder Charlie Leocha hopes to meet with the FTC’s consumer protection chief after the July 4 holiday.

“The only real way to change the system is to have the FTC declare any mandatory fee must be included in the room rate,” said Leocha. “One simple rule that applies to all hotels and the prices they offer to all guests will level the playing field, force all hotel operators to tell the truth and protect families and businesses from misleading and deceptive advertising.”

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) counters that its members practices provide sufficient disclosure and that only 7 percent of hotels charge resort fees.

“Hotels and resorts provide guests full disclosure for all fees charged at the time of booking with each property setting its own fee structure,” said a spokesperson for the AH&LA. “Resort fees are often bundled to provide guests with a better value for amenities and services that would otherwise cost more if charged individually.”

Travelers United lists Orlando as the number one U.S. destination for mandatory resort fees, with 107 hotels or 16 percent of properties in the market, charging a consumer an average of $11.57 per night.  Snowshoe West Virginia is tops for the share of hotels that charge a resort fee. 88 percent or 15 Snowshoe hotels charge an average of $18.09 per night. The steepest fees are in Puerto Rico. A total of 30 hotels, or 16 percent of the surveyed properties on the island charge an average of $34.14 per night.

Fee disclosure has been an ongoing issue for the airline industry, which now makes more than $6 billion in baggage and change fees.

The Transportation Department now requires that airlines must provide disclosure of the full price to be paid for an airline ticket—including government taxes/fees as well as carrier surcharges—in their advertising, on their websites and on the passenger’s e-ticket confirmation.

Carriers must also disclose all fees for optional services through a prominent link on their homepage, and must include information on e-ticket confirmations about the free baggage allowance and applicable fees for the first and second checked bag and carry-on.