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'The most hated fee in travel' hits Congress

Friday, September 27, 2019  
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'The most hated fee in travel' hits Congress

San Francisco Gate - September 27, 2019 

Legal challenges to the hotel industry's widespread practice of charging so-called "resort fees" just keep mounting. In the latest development, a bill was introduced in Congress this week to stop the practice.

Titled the Hotel Advertising Transparency Act of 2019, the legislation would prohibit hotels and other lodging providers from advertising room rates that do not include all mandatory charges other than government taxes and fees. It was introduced in the House by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.

The proposed federal legislation comes on the heels of two lawsuits on the issue that were filed in July – one by the attorney general of the District of Columbia against Marriott, and another by the attorney general of Nebraska against Hilton. Both of those suits allege that the hotel giants are violating local consumer protection statutes by imposing the extra fees and often hiding them from the immediate view of travelers who are searching online for accommodations.

"It is projected that in 2019, over three billion dollars in revenue alone will be collected from consumers due to these hidden fees. Consumers should be able to enjoy their vacation without being ripped off and financially burdened," Rep. Johnson said. The bill has the support of Consumer Reports and Travelers United, a consumer advocacy group.

If the bill becomes law, it would give enforcement authority over hotel price advertising to the Federal Trade Commission and to state attorneys general under provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

Lauren Wolfe, counsel for Travelers United, called resort fees "the most hated fee in travel," and urged Congress to act on what she called a "bipartisan common-sense bill." Wolfe added: "It is important to note that this bill does not just cover mandatory fees for hotels, but it also will require that all fees are disclosed in the advertised rate for short term rentals," such as cleaning or booking fees at Airbnb or Homeaway properties, which can be stultifying.

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