NCCC and Travelers United Push for Action against Deceptive Mandatory Hotel Resort Fees
The North Carolina Consumers Council (NCCC) and Travelers United are asking North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take action against hotels that engage in a deceptive and misleading practice of advertising nightly rates that do not include mandatory fees.
According to a joint consumer advisory released by NCCC and Travelers United, local hotel operators often advertise a nightly rate per room, but don't clearly indicate that, on top of that, guests have to pay a mandatory, non-negotiable fee that ranges from $20-35 per night for hotels, and often more than $75 per night at a resort.
NCCC and Travelers United say that these charges are often listed as "resort fees" and occur most frequently in tourist and business hotspots in destinations such as Florida, California, Hawaii, and North Carolina. Local hotel operators often attribute these mandatory fees to amenities such as "free" WiFi, an onsite pool or gym, and even coffee or newspapers provided to guests.
According to New York University's Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, hotel fees and surcharges grew to a whopping $1.25 billion in 2014.
"Families and businesses cannot effectively comparison shop or budget for lodging when some hotels advertise a nightly rate and also add mandatory fees," the organizations stated in the consumer advisory. "Local hotel operators also face a difficult choice—advertise a true rate and lose business, or follow the trend and mislead by adding a resort fee in addition to nightly rates."
"If the fees are mandatory, it must be included in the overall nightly room rate. Anything less is deceptive and misleading," said Charlie Leocha, Founder and Chairman of Travelers United.
"If a hotel fee is mandatory for everyone, there's absolutely no reason why it shouldn't be included, upfront, in the advertised nightly room rate," said NCCC President Sandra Bullock. "Consumers shouldn't have to guess how much they'll be paying or be surprised with additional fees. That's just common sense."
In 2012, the FTC issued letters to 22 hotel operators warning that advertising nightly rates that do not include all required fees is misleading, and may violate the FTC Act's ban on deceptive practices in commerce. However, no further action has been taken since by the agency.
NCCC and Travelers United are calling on the FTC to stop the practice of "misleading and deceptive" mandatory hotel resort fees through federal regulation.
The organizations say that North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and other state Attorneys General also have the authority to act to protect consumers when businesses engage in deceptive advertising practices.
NCCC and Travelers United encourage consumers to:
Email the FTC, and urge officials to issue guidance that mandatory resort and hotel fees are deceptive and illegal.
Contact Attorney General Cooper, or your state's Attorney General, and ask him to investigate this alarming trend, take a position, and take action against the worst offenders.
Voice your opinion. If staying at a hotel that charges a mandatory resort fee, share your concerns with the manager or hotel operator.