Last week, Hilton became the second global hospitality brand sued for “deceptive” resort fees. On July 23, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson filed a lawsuit against the McLean, Virginia-based company “for hiding the true price of hotel rooms from consumers and charging hidden resort fees to increase profits.”
The attorney general alleged that Hilton’s deceptive and misleading pricing practices and failure to disclose fees harmed consumers and violated Nebraska’s consumer protection laws. The attorney general’s lawsuit seeks to force Hilton to advertise the true prices of its hotel rooms up front, provide monetary relief to harmed Nebraska consumers and pay civil penalties. The amount of penalties sought was not specified.
A spokesperson for Hilton said, “Resort fees are charged at less than 2 percent of our properties globally, enable additional value for our guests and are always fully disclosed when booking through Hilton channels. We have just received the related legal documents and will take the opportunity to review them before providing additional comment.”
Earlier in the month, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine charged Marriott International with misrepresenting facts connected to resort fees. The harm was based on the difficulty of comparing actual prices using online booking sites.
“To lure consumers, some hotels advertise daily room rates that are lower than the true total price consumers will have to pay for a room. Then, when consumers book the room, the hotels add mandatory fees, often called resort fees, amenity fees or destination fees on top of advertised rates,” the suit alleged.
“By charging these fees, hotels can increase profits without appearing to raise prices,” Racine said. Over the past decade, Marriott has increased its use of resort fees and reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in additional profits.”
Marriott representative Brendan McManus said, “We don’t comment on pending litigation, but we look forward to continuing our discussions with other state AGs.”
Resort fees have become one of the items planners try to negotiate to make room blocks more attractive. Tyra Warner Hilliard, Esq., CMP, an attorney and assistant professor at College of Coastal Georgia, advises planners to include language in their contract to this effect: “Neither the group nor its attendees will be responsible for any fees or surcharges not enumerated in this contract or agreed upon in writing at check-in.” If these lawsuits are successful, that may no longer be necessary.